Soulive w/ Joshua Redman | 06.27

Words by: Brandon Wenerd | Images by Robert Chapman

Soulive with Joshua Redman :: 06.27.08 :: (Le) Possion Rouge :: New York, NY

(Le) Possion Rouge
Hanging modestly from the second story of a gray-brick building deep in the heart of New York's West Village, an iconic art deco sign reads: "The Village Gate: Politics. Sex. Reality." Nowadays, the sign is a sort of historical land marker, denoting the location of one of New York's former great music clubs, Art D'Lugoff's Village Gate. Though the Gate closed in 1993, the sign remains fastened above the corner of Thompson and Bleeker. Today, the sign symbolically invokes a certain type of nostalgia for a much romanced bygone era of Greenwich Village; an era of prideful bohemian eccentricity and titanic artistic accomplishment – the looming "ghosts" of iconoclastic greats like Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, Joan Baez, Charlie Parker, Dylan Thomas, etc. The punctuated, idiosyncratic mantra of "Politics. Sex. Reality." glibly hanging above an area littered with live music bars and nightclubs. Nonetheless, its presence attempts to capture, or at least emulate, the ultimate essence of the neighborhood and its almost mythological heritage of self-expression and freewheeling idealism.

There are many storied music clubs in the West Village near McDougal Street - The Blue Note, Cafe Wah, Sullivan Hall (formerly The Lions Den). However, for 38 years, Art D'Lugoff's Village Gate was a fabled hangout where established jazz legends could roll up their sleeves and let loose in A-list jam sessions. It was a place to nurture and cultivate talent, as well as a setting to take bold artistic risks. Unlike neighboring clubs, no, Bob Dylan did not play here. D'Lugoff wouldn't let him. However, he did write "A Hard Rain's A-Gone Fall" in the basement apartment. Rather, the Village Gate's honor roll is a who's who of straight ahead and Latin jazz: Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Tito Puente, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holliday.

Soulive :: 06.27 :: (Le) Possion Rouge
It may be perfunctory to note the sign now hangs over the storefront of a CVS Pharmacy. However, one level below the rows of toothbrush and deodorant shelves and the dull, florescent shopping glow, in the cavernous basement of the former Village Gate, a new musical venue has emerged on the New York scene. (Le) Poisson Rouge, French for "The Red Fish" is an eclectic performing arts space, ambitiously attempting to re-energize and resuscitate new meaning into the ideology of "Politics. Sex. Reality." Swathed in dark hues of merlot and eye-squinting basement darkness, the seductive corridors of (Le) Poisson Rogue feel like the set of a dizzying film noir; the type of club where a scotch-sipping Cary Grant would be allured by a beautiful Ingrid Bergman. The venue is more than just another stage and dance floor. Rather, excuse my French, it has a certain type of je ne sais quoi resulting from its intimate stage and floor design, allowing fans a personal perspective of the stage and performers, as well as plenty of room to mince around. Also helping are its historical location in the bowels of the Village Gate and an agenda to revitalize New York's nightlife scene with art, class and character.

(Le) Poisson Rouge has received quite a work out in its first few weeks, giving it a chance to flex its muscles as a performance venue in a city notorious for a cannibalistic tendency of eating treasured live music landmarks alive: CBGB, The Wetlands, Tonic, A7, Village Gate, etc. As part of the JVC Jazzfest, (Le) Poisson Rouge was able to experience an impressive debut, landing jazz and jam notables Poncho Sanchez, DJ Logic, Marco Benevento and a double dose of the nouveau-funk trio Soulive with special guest, accomplished tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman.

Redman with Soulive :: 06.27 :: (Le) Possion Rouge
Walking through the sexy corridors of (Le) Possion Rouge, I heard murmurs of the full-tilt rage Soulive and Redman brought the previous night. I anticipated three-hours of raw funk energy for the New York hometown crowd – trademark for any Soulive show – and was not disappointed when I got exactly what I saw coming.

The show, heavy on Soulive staples, can easily be likened to the characteristics of a train. The grooves either started slow, picking up speed into a full-throttle, chug-a-lug, ear-splintering musical journey (i.e. the second set performance of "Tuesday Night Squad" from Soulive's Next album); or, the band immediately barreled out of the station with breakneck speed, fueled by funk-maddened conductors trying to push the engineering capacity of a well-oiled locomotive of sound (i.e. "El Ron"). No matter how it started, each song featured Soulive playing loud and fast-paced poly-textured rhythms. This created a pulsing, funk-town bound express locomotive channeling sheer crowd adrenaline.

When Redman entered into the mix, the saxophone master soared above the accompaniment, hitting hard on the dramatic melodic and harmonic nuances lacking from the trio setup. As a quartet, musical sequences featured high-octane peaks of loud drums, stratospheric organ notes, guitar power picking and rapid saxophone motion in the upper register. But, these moments usually gave way into rumbling syncopated instrumental breakdowns with spaced out rhythmic energy and a spotlight on Redman's phrasing as a soloist. All the while, Soulive took the backseat and rumbled like a racecar, waiting to hit the pedal on the green light while highlighting Redman's musical prowess and their own capacity for bone shaking accompaniment.

Redman with Soulive :: 06.27 :: (Le) Possion Rouge
These moments of subtle musical fracture demonstrated the genuine bliss of the performance, putting an exclamation mark on the sublime. The musical restraint on Soulive and Redman's part seemed to thoughtfully recharge their improvisational batteries. Instead of a drifting, cosmic collective musical consciousness, the ensemble focused on the unique talent of each individual, giving it a raw feel of delightfully gritty humanity.

In 1995, a New York Times article analogized the excitement of new wave live jazz performers with basketball, citing Redman as a quixotic, Michael Jordan-like hero of the genre. Throughout his career, Redman has led a full court press on the dynamics of the saxophone with a bold tonality, intricate jazz arrangements and explosive, in-your-face energy. His presence in any ensemble commands attention, similar to Jordan dribbling down court, as he seems inevitably poised to suspend the limits of the physical world with a few seemingly simple breaths into his sax, much like Jordan launching into a breathtaking, fade away jump shot.

Redman's sound gave added depth to the trio's punctuated funk shuffle. However, even more intriguing was his refusal to completely surrender to the intoxicating musical energy surrounding him. For example, when guitarist (and birthday boy) Eric Krasno was ready to pluck out a solo or keyboardist Neal Evans karate-chopped the hell out of the B3 organ, Redman would position himself on an equipment box on the back of the stage, hunching over elbow-on-chin, much like Rodin's "The Thinker." A Harvard man (summa cum laude), Redman appeared to be strategically contemplating his next musical move, musing over the next phase of abstract modes and chords, thoughtfully composing in his head the musical recipe necessary to take the performance to the next level - all the way up until the sing-along, neo-soul, four-hands bangin' on the keyboard encore of "Do It Again."

It would be great to hear Soulive and Redman continue to evolve, perhaps on an album, belting out complex and soulful original arrangements that truly challenged the individual talents of each musician. But who can complain? In a venue deeply shrouded in a celebratory history, it was a moment cherished in breaking in a new space and reviving the "Politics. Sex. Reality." energy of the old Village Gate.

After the show, I caught up with Redman and asked him about the differences between his traditional jazz career and playing with Soulive. "Jazz music, the blues, funk, it's all the same," he said. Agreed, and a liberating, full-tilt "Amen" resounds from the soulful bowels of the West Village.

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[Published on: 7/9/08]

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Marcsmall Wed 7/9/2008 09:37PM
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Redman is as good as it gets on Sax.

karchy starstarstarstarstar Thu 7/10/2008 04:54AM
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Nice Review!!! Wish I could've seen this one. Sounds pretts sick.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Thu 7/10/2008 05:31AM
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good review. I look forward to seeing them here in my city soon :)

CircleLimit starstarstarstarstar Thu 7/10/2008 06:53AM
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Thanks for the review, well done. Your analogies were good descriptions of what Soulive has been doing for years. One of the most exciting bands on the scene right now. Loved the "Neal Evans karate choppin' the hell out of the B3" comment!

PooDolla Thu 7/10/2008 11:40AM
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Now they just need to get Redman from Wu Tang too.

dolittle Thu 7/10/2008 12:41PM
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I was fortunate enough to attend this show. Brandon, you nailed the review. Aside from the music, which speaks for itself, le poisson rouge is a space to behold. It has been a long time since NYC has had a space that is truly made for music. I wish the owners of LPR luck in their venture, but I don't think they will need it.

tonyscelzo Thu 7/10/2008 02:18PM
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Soulive and Josh Redman were unbelievable. Adam deitch joined in on drums but who was the other keyboard player with evans.

Neal Evans is a freak.

LPR-fantastic bathrooms

DBang starstarstarstarstar Thu 7/10/2008 06:00PM
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i wasn't there, but i'm guessing the second keyboard player might have been nigel hall. he's been playing w/ kras and evans in lettuce, a band which also boasts deitch on drums.

ps lettuce is sick.

baltman starstarstarstarstar Fri 7/11/2008 01:46AM
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The other keyboard player was Eldar Djangirov, a piano prodigy. He also sat in with Soulive last year at the Bowery Ballroom.

Capaldius starstarstarstarstar Fri 7/11/2008 11:31AM
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Great review! Well written and seems to capture the energy from the evening. Soulive has long been one of my favorites. I've seen them in many forms with various horn players and singers. Would love to see this lineup. Hop on the funk train if it rolls through your town. You won't be disappointed. I'm still waiting to see Lettuce. I'm sure it's super ultra mega dope.

madrevs925 Fri 7/11/2008 01:11PM
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Great review! It was an amazing show. I will say that if Deitch was the permanent drummer for the group, the band would be infinitely better. Adam Deitch is the best on the scene right now and his performances are unbeatable.

mreezal Mon 7/14/2008 01:36PM
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Let alan do his thing man, lettuce is in full effect right now too. deitch is the killer, but no disrespect towards alan, soulive rules! setlist?

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Wed 7/16/2008 06:02AM
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Eldar is a bad ass. Listen to his fusion song watermelon island. A fusion of herbie hancocks watermelon man and cantalope island. I did not know he played with SL. coolness