Foundation of Funk – 5.19.16 – Rex Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

For me, last week was filled with anticipation for the Foundation of Funk show on Thursday at the Rex. Neal Evans and Eric Krasno teamed up with original Meters members, Zigaboo Modeliste and George Porter Jr. for a five-city mini-tour. Surprisingly (and fortunately) one of the stops was right here in Pittsburgh, PA. Foundation of Funk is a Meters-themed project all the way. And even though I really dig The Meters and their brand of swampy New Orleans funk, the appeal of this show for me rested much more heavily on the Soulive side of the group, i.e. Neal Evans and Kraz.

It’s been a few years since I’ve last seen Soulive perform. I think the last time was probably at the Rex a few years ago with DJ Logic opening. It was around the time that they released their Beatles cover album, Rubber Soulive (2010). So the FoF show got me feeling nostalgic for the time that I was first introduced to the young trio (Neal Evans, Eric Krasno, and drummer Alan Evans) and those few years when they were my favorite band on the planet.

The first time I saw Soulive perform live was sometime in 2000. I’m pretty sure it was the first annual Jammy Awards at Irving Plaza in New York.  After one performance, I was hooked.  Their first release on Velour Records entitled Turn It Out, which remains in my top ten of all time list,  entered into steady rotation, I saw the group play as many times as I could, and I acquired as many live shows on CD-R as I could get my hands on.  Something about these guys and their music just clicked with me immediately.  It was the perfect mix of high-energy funk, soul, groove, jazz, and even a touch of hip-hop.  I had grown disenchanted with most of the jamband scene that had sucked me in a few years prior and I had started to revisit some of the hip-hop I had loved in my youth (i.e. groups like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Digable Planets, Snoop Dogg, etc).  It was also around this time that I had begun to dip my feet into the world of jazz and Soulive turned me on to all kinds of things like Grant Green, Herbie Hancock, Lou Donaldson, etc, etc, etc. which led to the endless rabbit hole that I’m still falling into to this day.

Over the years, Soulive experimented with their sound by adding an array of horns and vocalists to varying degrees of success.  In my opinion, they got slightly off track a bit possibly in an attempt for more mainstream appeal.  Whether this was their choice or their record label’s, I certainly can’t blame them for trying to make some money and/or to keep things fresh from their perspective.  But for me, it was all about the trio.  Some memorable performances, among many, for me from the early period were shows at South Burlington, VT’s Higher Ground, which was one of the first full length shows of theirs I attended, a trio set at the All Good Festival in 2004, and an unforgettable experience at The Tralf in Buffalo, NY in 2002.  It was at this show that I had the opportunity to meet the band as well as Neal and Alan’s mother (and sister?), who were all extremely kind and enthusiastic.  I was a HUGE fan at the time, so this was a big moment for me.  Here’s a pic of one of Alan’s broken snare drum heads that I asked the band to sign.

drumhead

Now, getting back to the Foundation of Funk show, I have to say that despite having a great time, I was slightly let down to hear not one Soulive tune.  Going into this, I knew that this was going to be two original members of The Meters playing Meters’ songs with two of the standout younger funk players on the current scene.  Having said that, I still held out hope that by this third night of the tour, they’d start to come together to perform as more of a group of equals and that this would open up a wider variety of song choices.  I knew this would not sound like Soulive or Lettuce (the two bands Krasno and Evans are a part of), but I think subconsciously, I was itching for some of that vibe.

But, I certainly did have a blast and these guys all sounded incredible.  I was really glad they made Pittsburgh one of the five stops on this short tour.  It’s nice to get a chance to see the legends do their thing because they won’t be around forever.  I shot a short video of The Meters’ most famous tune “Cissy Strut” as shown above.  My storage was full, hence cutting off Kraz’s guitar solo.  But fortunately, someone in the back of the room managed to film and post the entire show which you can check out here.  Enjoy!

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Wilson/Barnes/Throckmorton – 6.3.14 – Thunderbird Cafe, Pittsburgh, PA

Dan Wilson – guitar
Cliff Barnes – organ
David Throckmorton – drums

 Maybe it was the beautiful late-Spring weather or maybe the Space Exchange series is simply just getting the attention it deserves, but the Thunderbird Cafe in Lawrenceville had a sizable and diverse crowd last night for the Wilson/Barnes/Throckmorton Trio.

I haven’t been to a Space Exchange show in a few weeks, but over the last couple of years, the crowds have been hit or miss. But whatever the reason, people definitely came out to see this new-ish local organ trio.  Organ trios traditionally play groove oriented music rooted in blues, soul, and funk…types of music that are generally more accessible to a larger audience than things like free jazz or fusion.  Plus, several funky instrumental organ groups have crossed over into the “jam” scene within the last 15 years or so (i.e. Soulive, Medeski Martin & Wood, The New Mastersounds, Greyboy Allstars, etc.) introducing the genre to a new audience of thirsty ears, so this could have contributed to this show’s turnout as well.

This was my first time seeing this trio.  Going in, I honestly didn’t know exactly what to expect. Being quite familiar with Throck’s style, I didn’t think this would be TOO funky and danceable like early Soulive but I also didn’t expect a total throwback to the past like early Jimmy Smith or Jack McDuff or any of that stuff.  From what I heard (the first set), it was somewhere in the middle, like some sort of playful experimental bluesy soul-jazz .  I talked to Throck before the show and he said that this project is still young and they are still working things out to see what happens.  I could tell these guys were having fun and killing at the same time.  I’m eagerly looking forward to their progress as a group and hope to see them often.

This is their take on Michael Jackson‘s “The Way You Make Me Feel”.  Being a life long fan, a band cannot go wrong with any MJ cover in my opinion.  I dug it.  Enjoy!

Record Scores – Jan-March

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while but I have picked up quite a few records in the last 3 months.  Some of which were true “scores” that involved crawling around in a dark dusty attic (Sun Ra).  Some were things that I’ve wanted for quite a while but are normally too rare and/or too expensive (Soulive 2LP).  And a couple (John Lurie & Clifford Jordan) were new releases or reissues that are just too good to exclude from this post.

Some highlights relevant to this blog in no particular order…..

 

Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra
Sun Ra
The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Vol. 1
1965 – ESP-Disc

Iron Man
Eric Dolphy
Iron Man
1969 – Douglas

Soulive
Soulive
Soulive
2003 – Blue Note

John Lurie National Orchestra
John Lurie National Orchestra
The Invention of Animals
2013 – Amulet Records

earland
Charles Earland
Live At The Lighthouse
1972 – Prestige

Dance of Magic
Norman Connors
Dance of Magic
1972 – Cobblestone

Soul Fountain
Clifford Jordan
Soul Fountain
1970 – Vortex
(REISSUE)

Barefoot Sunday Blues
Ramsey Lewis Trio
Barefoot Sunday Blues
1963 – Cadet

Skyy Line

Skyy
Skyy Line
1981 – Salsoul