Royal Family Ball featuring Soulive & Lettuce
Lettuce, the seven-person all-star collective originally formed in 1992, returns to the funk jazz forefront with its third album, RAGE!, a hyper-charged outing of tunes that are equal parts artsy and party. The CD is a tantalizing tribute to funk music — paying homage to all stripes of funksters, including James Brown, Sly Stone, Herbie Hancock, Tower of Power, the Meters, Earth Wind & Fire, Parliament Funkadelics, J Dilla—music that reflects “our way of life,” says bassist Erick “E.D.” Coomes, who is joined in the groove onslaught by his co-ragers: keyboardist Neal Evans, saxophonists Sam Kininger and Ryan Zoidis, guitarists Eric Krasno and Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff, and drummer Adam Deitch.
Lettuce sprouted in the fertile environment of Berklee College of Music in Boston where all members met at a summer music program when they were in their teens. “I hate to sound cheesy, but I fully feel it was destiny that this band came together,” says Krasno. “We were all in the same place, all the same age. None of the friends I grew up with were into music like I was. Then I went to Berklee that summer, and all these guys were into music the way I was, and it happened that we were all playing the right instruments to put together a band.”
All the members brought to the group different funk-styled influences. For example, Krasno was into the new jazz funk of Herbie Hancock, Deitch was raised on Tower of Power and Earth Wind & Fire and introduced that sound through his compositions to the band. Zoidis recalls, “We all lived in the same dorm and we each brought music to the table that the others hadn’t heard before. There was an ensemble room downstairs that we began playing in.” Krasno adds, “We did a lot of jamming after we did a lot of listening.”
When brothers Neal and Alan Evans first invited guitarist Eric Krasno to get down at their Woodstock, NY studio (a session that led to the trio’s break-out record Get Down! in 1999), it was out of mutual love for the great soul-jazz organ trios of the ’60s and ’70s (Jimmy Smith, Groove Holmes, Brother Jack McDuff).
Not many bands can say they’ve recorded with Chaka Khan, Dave Matthews, Talib Kweli and John Scofield. Nor can many bands open for The Rolling Stones on one tour and have Stevie Wonder sit in with them on the next tour. The developed musical relationships, from the aforementioned artists to Derek Trucks, Maceo Parker, Susan Tedeschi, Karl Denson, Robert Randolph, Joshua Redman, Kenny Garrett, Fred Wesley, The Roots, Ivan Neville and so many others, speak volumes about both how versatile these talented musicians are. Jazz, hip-hop, rock, soul, funk, R & B, Blues – musically, there is not much the band hasn’t done.
March 2011 marked the 12 year anniversary of the trio, who celebrated their careers at Bowlive II alongside their longtime co-conspirators that comprise Royal Family Records: the Shady Horns (Sam Kininger and Ryan Zoidis), Nigel Hall, and all the Soulive side projects, including Lettuce, Fyre Dept, Chapter 2, and Adam Deitch’s Break Science. The Bowlive residency at Brooklyn Bowl was their second annual residency which drew over 8,000 fans over ten nights with guests such as Maceo Parker, John Scofield, Ivan Neville, Talib Kweli, and Pharoahe Monch.
In 2010, Soulive released Rubber Soulive their take on Beatles classics to rave reviews. 2011 will see the birth of a decades plus worth of planning and work for Soulive and Royal Family Records. The future of funk is in good hands.