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Hotstar


12:00 AM Monday, 8/11/03 |   |

A conversation with Soulive manager Jeff Krasno and guitarist Eric Krasno is as free-flowing and effortless as the music the New York-based trio has been creating on stages in the U.S. and overseas for four years and counting.

The Krasno brothers have been involved with each other musically a good portion of their lives, both on the same page personally and creatively even when they disagree.

"I think working with family just raises the ante. The highs are greater but the lows are also greater. You run that risk," Jeff told POLLSTAR. "Eric and I, I think, get into a horrible argument every day but we also know we're all going to get through it. We have a tremendous amount of power working together and being able to sort of rely on each other."

Another element that gives Soulive a tighter bond is that drummer Alan Evans and keyboardist Neal Evans are also brothers who have performed together most of their lives. The band's agent, Ron Kaplan, just happens to be the Krasno brothers' uncle.

"When I was younger, Jeff was always playing guitar and different instruments in different groups. He definitely influenced me a lot to get into doing it," Eric told POLLSTAR. "He's always somehow been involved in what I've been doing musically, and then he started learning the business as I started performing. We kind of grew at the same time."

And learning the "business" is exactly what Jeff did, more than he ever imagined. When Soulive began, he was running a recording studio and playing his own gigs. Artist management wasn't even a thought.

"Eric was excited about the band and, in the most naive way, I said, 'Well, you know, I'll record the band and put out the record.' I started, at that point, Velour Recordings and - without a distribution deal, a publicist, a radio promoter or anything - we made this record," Jeff said. "It wasn't sonically awesome ... but it captured the essence of what the band was."

Soulive then hit the road, hauling equipment that included a 400-pound Hammond organ and case - causing not a few split lips and sore backs - and hawking the disc at shows and through consignment deals.

Once the band signed with Blue Note in 2000 and the following year released its debut, Doin' Something, Jeff officially took over as manager.

"What this meant for me was changing gears and not really being the 'record guy' as much - kind of falling almost de facto into the management role and working with the band in that way," Jeff said. "I've gotten to know so many different facets of the industry. It's helped me grow into a manager that understands a broad range of things and building business relationships."

Soulive's concept of bringing jazz back to the dance floor has evolved in an organic way with the addition of hip-hop, R&B, soul and other influences, earning a loyal following.

"In the last year, we've done two big headlining tours, we opened for The Rolling Stones, opened for Dave Matthews. We've played with The Roots and Common at the Apollo Theatre, and with Bela Fleck," Jeff said. "I think that's the key of what a band has to do right now to be successful. They have to reach into so many different demographics - reach across boundaries - and I think Soulive is a great band for that."

"We've managed to carve out our own thing in a time when it's relatively difficult to be stable," he added.

Eric and the Evans brothers showed their versatility on the band's 2002 release, Next, adding alto sax player Sam Kininger and guest vocalists Dave Matthews, Talib Kweli, Amy Larrieux, and Black Thought of The Roots.

"We're very open and into a lot of different styles. We try not to pigeonhole ourselves into one thing," Eric said. "But a lot of [the music] comes together when we're touring. Being on the road is definitely a major element of Soulive.

"We're psyched to play for anyone. We do rock clubs, cafes, stadiums - anything. As much as we tour, [the music] has to change in order for us to stay creative and stay happy on the road," he added.

The band's third release, Soulive, which dropped in April, is a collection of songs recorded at shows in New Orleans, New York, Atlanta, Chicago and North Carolina. It showcases the members' talents for improv.

"I think the first chapter of Soulive is sort of ... bringing jazz back to the dance floor. I think that's the story that resonates here," Jeff said. "The second chapter, as we try to move forward, is to try and expand the boundaries musically in other ways.

"Individually, the guys on their own are producing like crazy - different projects, writing music," he said. "Then, they try to find a way to logically integrate that into the Soulive sound without losing what people have grown to love. That's going to be the big challenge."

Despite a downturn in an industry that is fighting Internet copyright infringement and CD piracy, Jeff said the trio will continue to take its music to the next level.

"Soulive is not based on a media blitz. They're musicians for life," he said. "It's not like if this doesn't work out, they're going to go out and do sales or something."

Cover and inside photo by Dino Perrucci


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