Eric Krasno Band, Scenic, NYC- 12/28
Every now and then I’ll bust out a set of discs from March of 2000- Eric Krasno and Friends gigs from some little shoebox of a basement lounge on the Lower East Side that probably doesn’t even exist anymore. They’re great shows, raw and rootsy and loaded with special guests- Adam Deitch and Oteil Burbridge among others. At the time, Soulive was just cutting its funky teeth, had just finished the Wetlands residency, and within months would outgrow the club and begin the first of what has become an unending series of evolutionary shifts. That month of shows was immediately followed by a month of late Sunday nights of Kraz leading a squad through the groove classics that seemed to be everywhere at the time- “Let the Music Take Your Mind”, “Everything Is Everything”- or abdicating to Oteil for Peacmakers’ material. Definitely intimate, family gigs.
Five years later, Kraz is in another shoebox of a basement lounge, with a bar and two big speakers suspended from the low ceiling with chains- more than adequate to fill the room with sound. Not such a family atmosphere, or rather a different family atmosphere. Scenic has been a rising joint over the past few months, hosting a number of events starring Marco Benevento, either with his cohort in crime Joe Russo, or the regular side collaborators Andrew Barr and Marc Friedman of The Slip, and recently serving as home base for regular Adam Deitch Project shows. The room seems to have its own regulars, and fewer of the faces you might spot just down the street at the Merc, or just down-er the street from that at the Knit’s Tap Room. Now the room is hosting, the first Eric Krasno Band show under that moniker, although it was essentially Lettuce Lite: Kraz, Deitch, ED Coomes, Ryan Zoidis and family friend and hardest working sax in the city, Cheme Gastelum.
Five years later, and Kraz showed himself to be a journeyman with a wide-ranging sound. He hit everything from rowdy, distorted shredding, to the funky rhythm at his roots, to the clean, ornate liquid fire that helped win Soulive its name and reputation, all with dexterity and skill. His set list included covers of Herbie Hancock, Led Zeppelin and Stevie Wonder, all packed into the early portion of the night. A mid-gig pair of originals were distinctly colored by Taj Mahal and Santana respectively- good music, good playing. While the night wasn’t ostensibly a showboat event, as such friendly blowing sessions can become, there was a sense that Kraz was casually strutting his stuff across the four inch stage, shrugging, “Yeah, I can do this too.”
To be fair, Ryan Zoidis was as much a front man as the guitarist, screaming out sax solos all night long. And then there is Deitch, a truly inspiring drummer whose clever, innovative playing is much more a lead than part of the rhythm section- a re-imagining of the Elvin Jones approach. He’s so engaging, so precise, it’s a wonder he isn’t better known outside the Northeast. But beyond his virtuosity, his compositions, an untitled pair played somewhere in the hazy core of the night, were standouts. The first was gratifying, superficially tight and clean, but had so much space to play in just below the surface. The second was slower, longer and rich- a gorgeous, intelligent song. It would be nice to see some version of this unit stuck around as it seems like a good alternative outlet for its namesake- but it would be essential to keep Deitch at its core.