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Live in NYC, 07.29.04 – SouliveLive in NYC, 07.30.04 – SouliveLive in NYC, 07.31.04 – Soulive

Pirate Entertainment

An elderly woman once offered that she had changed by not changing at all (hi Eddie), but that idea has no place in the Soulive camp.

These cats are all about change.

Initially, they were funky jazzers in the style of Jimmy Smith or Grant Green, gettin' down with friends in high places like Oteil and Reverend Sco (Turn It Out); two years later, they were major-label hipsters, smoothing out those rough edges for your aural pleasure (Doin’ Something)

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Another 12 months down the line and they were chillin' with The Roots and Talib, brewing up soulhop so hot it could melt your eardrums (Next); and then it was back to basics for a definitive live record if ever there was one. Soulive saw Kraz, Neal and Alan strip away the horns, MCs and vocalists for an evening of funk, the whole funk and nothing but the funk, trio style.

Which brings us about to the present. 2004 was, like any other era in Soulive's brief career (the boys first got together in '99), a transition period: as of late, they're attached at the hip to Lettuce horns Ryan Zoidis (tenor sax) and Rashawn Ross (trumpet), and they're often accompanied by Maktub's Reggie Watts (this dude's got some serious pipes).

And their new tunes, showcased here in exceptional audio quality, are straight-up ragers. Live In NYC, a six-disc set documenting Soulive’s three-night stand (you can purchase each night individually; each show is captured on two discs) at downtown haunt Tribeca Rock Club, is not to be taken lightly; get ready for some heavy shit.

"J-Live," for instance, is too funky. Sometimes, when Neal and Kraz play lines in unison, Neal on clav and Kraz handling his Ibanez's bassy, lower register with tender, funking care, it's just too much; this is one of those times.

The horn-propelled "Headphones," from volume 3, is in similar standing. Zoidis really rips on this one, and you can just feel the energy that bounced around that room one sweaty Saturday night. With every nasty phrase (Zoidisism?), you can hear a few faint cheers from the crowd and you almost wish the hoots and hollers were a bit more audible.

And then you realize that you really don't wish that. These recordings are really outstanding; there's virtually no chatter, and the levels are just… you're going to have to see for yourself.

You're going to have to hear old-school joint "Azucar" with its new, Prince-worthy intro (and, speaking of Prince, there's a "Raspberry Beret" jam before "Tuesday Night's Squad" on volume 1). You're going to have to hear the slow jam they slipped into Sam Kininger's "Whatever It Is" (he tears it up all over volume 1). You're going to have to hear Neal's bass fills on "Break Out," circa volume 2

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You're going to have to hear it for yourself (the five-horn affair "Chameleon," that is; see volume 3). These are some serious live releases, even at a time when it seems that every band is releasing every show they play. (It's a bit extraneous, wouldn't you say? Where's the incentive to go see a show when you can just pick up the discs if you miss the big night?) So pick up at least one of these two-disc sets before you can't (only 1,000 copies of each set were pressed). And be ready for a document of where these cats are today: five years after their inception, Soulive has changed by not changing at all. They're still doing what they do best: something new, that's really, really good. And funky. Really, really funky.

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