Soulive Next

This jazz-funk jam band's second major label release is a smoothly produced affair that's chock full of foot-tapping jams. Most tracks build off of one riff, go on detours and come back to the original hook. You sense the spontaneity one would probably derive from a live show is missing, and after a while it begins to sound a little to planned and becomes a quick candidate for pleasant background music. The album, however, has a much stronger second half, and "Nay-Nay" employs a tactic that probably would have benefited the album if it had employed more. Instead of leaving the groove once it is established, this track stays with it, adding layers and slight variations. The brassy sax playing is not so up-front here and this is also the case on the collaborative tracks. Doing a passable imitation of the Roots, Soulive's "Clap" features the Philadelphia group's MC Black Thought, and tracks featuring the angelic vocals of Amel Larrieux ("I Don't Know") and Talib Kweli ("Bridge To Bama") are other examples of the group resonating better when locked into a groove. (Blue Note)