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Published: 2004/01/29
by Andy Tennille

Used with Eric Krasno

A walk through the used record bins of some of the country’s finest music stores with musicians, both famous and infamous.

Fifteen minutes into our visit to Amoeba Music, and Eric Krasno feels the need to make a confession.

"Whenever I'm here, I try and stick to one section of the store, because you just get lost otherwise," Krasno says quietly. "Last time I was here, I bought all the old Zeppelin records. I had just seen Almost Famous and really connected with some of that music. That shit was the soundtrack to my childhood, man. I could have bought the greatest hits compilations, but I got all the originals, cause I wanted to hear the progression from album to album. I notice those things now that I've produced some stuff."

The New York City-based guitarist has been keeping busy aside from his guitar duties with funk power trio Soulive. Besides producing the remix of the band's 2000 album Turn It Out, Krasno has played on a DJ Spinna album and produced hip-hop artists J-Live and Talib Kweli. Producing isn't anything new to Krasno he's been making beats on a sampler since 1995. Nowadays, he works on an Akai MPC 2000XL that he brings on the road with him.

"I enjoy producing a lot," Krasno says. "Working with people like Wordsworth, J-Live and DJ Spinna has been really amazing, man. We had The Beatnuts do a track on the Turn It Out remix, and I've worked on some of their stuff. Those guys don't give a fuck. They're the shit."

Talk of other influences turns to the first albums Krasno bought as a kid, and the guitarist doesn't hesitate in his answer.

"It was either Zeppelin I or Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love," he says matter-of-factly. "My brother got me into it. After that, it was probably Run DMC, stuff like King of Rock and Raising Hell. I had a Beastie Boys shirt back then that I wore almost every day. My parents eventually made me take it off."

Just as Krasno finishes his story about the Beastie Boys shirt, Ryan Zoidis walks up with DJ Spinna's 2003 album Here to There. Zoidis, who met Krasno when both musicians were students at the Berklee School of Music and founded the funk group Lettuce with the guitarist, is joining Soulive on this tour along with fellow horns man Sam Kinniger and organist Ivan Neville.

"This is probably the best album he's done," Krasno says as he looks at the back of the disc. "I hung out with him in the studio while he working on a Stevie Wonder tribute album. He was basically remixing a bunch of these old Stevie tunes that other people had recorded. I was there when he was mixing "Too High." It was awesome Spinna was pulling together all these different versions of the song and mixing them together. At the end of the mix, you can hear him yelling at some people for smoking all of a joint without him. I'm not sure if it made it onto the final mix or not, but it was some funny shit."

Zoidus cracks up and wanders off mumbling something about Jaylib's Champion Sound. Krasno and I walk over to the Soul section to check out some more Stevie and stop to look through some old Prince discs.

"I liked Rainbow Children, though some people really didn’t dig it," Krasno says. "The Black Album is good. Prince can do just about anything, man. He plays most of the instruments and writes all the songs. There’s a lot of stuff in this section that influenced me a lot growing up Curtis Mayfield, Sly & the Family Stone. You can’t go wrong with Sly. Even something like Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite was really big for me. That's a great album, man."

Kraz heads for the Jazz room at Amoeba to see if the store is stocking Turn It Out Remixed they are. I ask Kraz who his favorite young trumpeters are and he takes me over to look at Russell Gunn’s new album, Mood Swings. Gunn played on a number of interesting projects, including Branford Marsalis’ Buckshot LeFonque album Music Evolution.

"There are a lot of young trumpet players I like," Krasno says. "Jeremy Pelt, Nicholas Payton, Irvin Mayfield…Russell's pretty good too. I like Roy Hargrove. I got asked to play on his new album that came out this year, but couldn't do it at the last second. That's probably my biggest regret this year D'Angelo, Karl Denson and a few others played on it. I jammed with one of the cats in Roy's band one night. Spanky (Alford) is this guitarist that fuses all his knowledge of jazz, funk, gospel and rock into this incredible sound. We shedded all night together and he showed me all his shit."

I ask Krasno to end the debate of the greatest jazz guitarist of all time. He gets a very serious look on his face and walks down the aisle, considering his answer.

"Charlie Christian started it and took it there," Krasno says. "Wes Montgomery really took it to a new level. Wes just took off. He was it, man. His playing was so unique he was the first cat to play with his thumb. In my mind, he's above Grant Green."

Wandering through Used Jazz, Krasno eventually arrives at Yusef Lateef, the guitarist's mentor at Hampshire College.

"I left Berkelee to go study with him," Krasno says as he studies the back of Into Something, Lateef's 1961 classic album. "The opening track on this album features him playing an oboe. He could play just about any instrument: oboe, saxophone, flute. He taught me a lot about music."

Kraz’s Picks of the Day
DJ Spinna & Bobbito, The Wonder of Stevie
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin
Run DMC, King of Rock
Yusef Lateef, Into Something
Wes Montgomery, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery

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