Rage! – Lettuce
Velour Music Group
If you haven’t yet met Lettuce, Soulive’s evil twin, you should.
Formed in 1992 at a Berklee College of Music summer program, this damn-funky septet features guitarist Eric Krasno and keyboardist Neal Evans, both of Soulive, and alto saxophonist Sam Kininger, formerly of Soulive. Tenor saxophonist Ryan Zoidis often tours with Soulive, and drummer Adam Deitch often sits in. So, one could safely assume that these guys sound like Soulive, right?
Well, yes and no. Krasno and Evans leave a distinctive stamp on any groove, it’s true, but Lettuce has a thicker sound that often leans toward hip-hop and P-Funk, whereas Soulive, no matter how many changes they go through, often land nearest to the jazz corner of the universe. Lettuce are Hendrix to Soulive’s Scofield.
And their new album, RAGE!, is their best studio hit to date (it’s no Electric Ladyland, but it’s some bad stuff, trust me). Featuring little or no filler, this disc is 52 minutes of inspired riffing on the music and concepts of some of funk music’s greatest heroes. “Speakeasy” is straight-up Meters right off the bat, and “Last Suppit” is an ode to the J.B.’s from head to toe, except with a few trademark Lettuceisms tossed in: the requisite dizzying, in-your-face horn line, and the theme stated by guitar, as opposed to horns. The sinister slow jam of the year, “Mr. Yancey,” is a tribute to the late J Dilla (real name: James Yancey), and their admirable take on Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up” (with Dwele on vocals) is a nod to the Superfly one himself.
But the most interesting cuts on the album are the all-too-brief “Dizzer,” and “Relax,” both of which sound like Lettuce. “Relax,” especially, is a hypnotic groover with the simplest of melodies floating atop a tranquil ocean of funk. It’s so catchy. One would hope they explore this area of their writing more extensively in the future.