Bowlive IV Night Six: Soulive feat. Bill Evans, John Medeski & George Porter Jr.
Words By Karen Dugan (TinyRager.com)
To many New Yorkers, Thursday signifies the start of the weekend. Music venues bulk up their staff and bands slated to perform anticipate an audience that is ready for a party. Last night was the sixth night of Soulive’s Brooklyn Bowl residency, Bowlive IV. The foundation was set for a rocking night of music with the Brooklyn Bowl stocked with staff and Soulive ready to throw it down. With so many amazing musicians sitting in with Soulive over the past six nights, it has been challenging to ensure proper love is given to everyone. Especially during residencies, focus on special guests and their performances become the unexpected highlights of the articles and sometimes people forget to focus on the core members of the residency themselves. Credit must be given where credit is due. Guitarist Eric Krasno, drummer Alan Evans and Neal Evans, along with the Brooklyn Bowl, have created something extremely special and unique for the New York music community. Since it’s inception in 2010, Bowlive has turned into a musical Superbowl that pushes the skills of the best of the best. For eight to ten nights, these three rock stars provide a fusion of styles that showcase numerous artist and instruments with Soulive’s distinct sound providing the base. The shared respect between musicians to musicians, and musicians to fans amps the frenetic creative energy that flows from the first downbeat to the final bow. Eric, Alan, and Neal are all at the top of their game and are now standing out among the greats, using the glory of Bowlive to cement their place as a musical dynasty. A dynasty that began in 1999. It speaks volumes that the trio can support an eight to ten night residency that packs the house every night and attracts some of the biggest names in live music. Last night continued the tradition of amazing collaborations with keyboardist John Medeski and saxophonist Bill Evans.
The power trio had to make a few changes to the musical formula last night. Due to a benefit concert earlier in the day, last night was the first and only night of the run where the power trio did not have a rocking opening band to set pace. Without an opening band, Soulive was tasked with pumping up the eager crowd that was filled up with party animals, packing the dance floor to the brim. By doing so, they completely reinforced to the fans why any of us were there in the first place. Soulive original, "Aladdin," began the set, providing the first platform for Krasno to open up and slay his guitar. Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" followed, a song that everyone can geek out on, especially the musicians playing the tune. After six nights, the guys were thoroughly warmed up and just crushing solos left and right on The Beatles tune, “I Want You.” Enter The Shady Horns, consisting of trumpeter Eric Bloom, saxophonist James Casey, and baritone saxophonist Ryan Zoidis, for “Backwards Jack.” These three horn players provide a platform for the trio to open up and rage. Over the run, Eric Bloom has been experimenting with a guitar Wa Wa pedal during his trumpet solos, while James Casey has broken out the flute and provided percussion on many songs.
Continuing his guest appearance from the fifth night, London Souls guitarist Tash O'Neal joined the stage for the Beatles, “Get Back” and a slow “PJs.” Quality choices off their 2010 album, Rubber Soulive, made up the bulk of the first set before the audience was hit with a special unannounced guest. Alan spoke to the crowd, "I am sorry for those of you who can't come tomorrow night. You know, it's a real shame that you won't see George Porter, Jr. tomorrow. But it's ok! Because you can see him now!" This was special. Bassist George Porter, Jr. is an icon, legend and mentor, not only to the members of Soulive, but any true musician or music lover who loves funky, deep, in-the-pocket bass lines. A member of the legendary group, The Meters, Porter's unique sound can be heard on recordings for Warren Haynes, Patti Labelle, Jimmy Buffett, David Byrne, Johnny Adams, Harry Connick Jr., Earl King, and Tori Amos, to name a few. Soulive is so well-versed on Porter's catalog that the end of the set list simply read, "Whatever GPJ Wants!" They cranked out Meter’s covers "Check Your Mind" right into "Funky Bitch," without missing a beat.
Soulive continued to descend upon us with new musicians, adding keyboardist John Medeski (Medeski, Martin and Wood) and saxophonist Bill Evans to their Bowlive IV roster for the second set. A set that is hard to describe in words. Let’s just start with knowing the fact that Bill Evans was in Miles Davis’s band at the age of 22 and John Medeski was asked to perform on Jaco Pastorius’s 1981 tour while still a teenager. Along with Soulive and the Shady Horns, Medeski and Evans played a mind-blowing set. Medeski’s avant-garde jazz quality added an incredible layer of sound to the stage, either filling every empty space with a melodic note, or simply striking one key and locking eyes with Neal. The set was filled with songs from Spark, a collaborative album with Karl Denson, released in March 2012. “Spark!,” the title track, kicked it off with Bill Evans crushing a sick solo on his soprano sax. Trombonist Natalie Cressman (Trey Anastasio Band) was the next unannounced sit-in who lent her sound on “Povo.” “Nubian Lady” and “Liquid” followed, sounding exactly like the names suggest. The musicians were so tight, fluid, and everyone on stage was cranking out their notes in improvisational ways, yet sounded as if they had been rehearsing the same songs for years. Unannounced drummer ?uestlove, who holds a standing DJ set on Thursdays for the Brooklyn Bowl, snuck in for "Nautilus" and proceeded to slam our heads into the beat of the song. It was inspiring. Soulive encored with an extended, jamming “Tuesday Night Squad.”