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Next (2002)

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Soulive

On a mission to update the jazz organ tradition, Soulive maintains a tight groove throughout Next. Their approach involves narrowing the creative options, then turning up the heat within the confined space they allow themselves. Where drummers in old-school jazz organ groups played freely around the backbeat, Soulive's Alan Evans never misses the two and four. His brother Neal Evans imposes similar restrictions on himself by staying with essentially the same timbre on organ -- a thin, steamy sound, with a crisp percussive bite -- while Eric Krasno cultivates a shallow blues/jazz tone on guitar. A bone-dry production highlights this constriction, where every note and snare hit crackles in high definition. The songwriting is limited as well to riff-driven tunes with minimal melodic content. That leaves performance as the wild card, and here Soulive doesn't fail. From the relaxed pace of "Nay Nay" to the sprint clip of the Headhunters-flavored "Whatever It Is," the band demonstrates an almost frightening command of nuance in its rhythmic interplay and antiseptic articulation. On instrumental tracks, as well as when backing raps on "Clap!" and "Bridge To Bama" or moaning bedroom vocals on " Don't Know," Soulive makes a strong case on Next for consideration as the hottest rhythm unit of the moment. ~ Robert L. Doerschuk