Photos by Lou Montesano
For two weeks each year, Soulive takes up residency at Brooklyn Bowl for a series of shows that has become known as “Bowlive.” The core Soulive members—Eric Krasno on guitar and the Evans brothers, Alan (drums) and Neal (keyboards)—have been playing together since 1999, crossing over from a traditional jazz trio to rock, funk and blues.
Part of Bowlive’s appeal is the many friends who appear throughout the residency, giving each show its own vibe. This year’s eight-night run featured familiar names capable of headlining on their own—Steve Kimock, Doyle Bramhall II, Karl Denson, George Porter, Jr.—as well as emerging talent such as Marcus King, Ron Artis and Los Colognes.
We were on hand for two nights, starting with the show featuring Bramhall and Artis. The Soulive trio played a full set of “Rubber Soulive,” a collection of instrumental Beatles covers they released as an album in 2010. Krasno’s guitar work is first-rate, but the soul of Soulive is drummer Alan Evans, who lays down a powerful beat and leads his bandmates into unchartered waters. The trio proved its jazz chops with inventive takes on “Eleanor Rigby,” “In My Life” and “Come Together” before the barefoot Ron Artis joined them for a rocking cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Artis stayed on to play a solo set while the band took a break before returning to the stage with Doyle Bramhall. A guitarist’s guitarist—as a youth, Bramhall was hand-picked by Roger Waters and by Eric Clapton as a member of their touring bands—the Texas native raised the energy level, trading licks with Krasno and taking things in a raw, bluesy direction. Saxophonist Kamasi Washington appeared unannounced to close things with some jazzier sounds.
A week later we were back to hear another guitar slinger, 21-year-old Marcus King. We first caught King a year ago opening for Krasno, and since then he’s continued to gain traction on the jamband scene. Discovered by Warren Haynes, King looks like Haynes’ kid brother and is well schooled in the tradition. Blistering takes of “Whipping Post” and Traffic’s “Had to Cry Today” had the crowd stoked before New Orleans bassist George Porter, Jr joined the fun and added a funky groove. Also of note was the opening act, Nashville’s Los Colognes, a five-piece band led by guitarist and singer Jay Rutherford.
Eric Krasno is among the busiest musicians around, fronting his own band and appearing with Lettuce in addition to Soulive. He’s also active behind the scenes, collaborating with and producing for many other artists. Above all, though, we were impressed by his gracious support of new talent, helping pave the way for the likes of King and now Ron Artis, Los Colognes and other emerging acts. Krasno was comfortable out front as well as hanging back to allow other artists to shine.