It's always refreshing to hear a band not afraid to bring plenty of different styles into its playing, and Soulive is just such a band. On its new self-titled live album, Soulive turns from a jam band to a jazz troupe in a second, unafraid to draw on other predecessors: funk's solid basslines and hip-hop's breakbeats are evident as well.

The album was recorded by the trio, drummer Alan Evans, guitarist Eric Krasno and keyboardist Neal Evans, over five separate dates from November to December of 2002. Blue Note Records, jazz's premier label, released the disc, and the album and band bear the marks of some of those who have passed before them under that exalted name. Skilled, tight, improvisation and virtuosity in playing characterize the music.

Instrumental music in general and especially jazz can be boring to a pop fan used to carefully placed hooks and well-defined choruses, but Soulive's playing is always exciting and fresh. Even a song like "Turn it Out," stretching for 13 minutes, hours by contemporary standards, has a sense of urgency behind it that keeps the excitement and the momentum of the song flowing. Other standout songs include the album's first track, "Aladdin," and Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Lenny," on which guitarist Krasno is given a chance to shine.

The only real drawback to the album is that sometimes the band strays too far from jazz territory and sounds strangely Phishy. Otherwise, though, the album is the perfect accompaniment to a lazy summer afternoon.


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