Newport Jazz 2008: Soulive With Fred Wesley
The popular soul-funk band Soulive arrived at the Newport Jazz Festival with an elder statesman of groove music: trombonist Fred Wesley. Judging from drummer Alan Evans' stage banter, the group was thrilled to share the stage with a pioneer of their art form. "I told somebody earlier: I've been waiting all my life to do this," Evans said, before introducing Wesley.
After Soulive performed a few extended instrumental jams, the longtime soloist and arranger behind James Brown and George Clinton appeared on stage to enthusiastic applause. Alongside fellow horn player Ryan Zoidis, Wesley brought instrumental punch to several classic funk numbers he'd originally helped popularize. After a guest spot from modern soul singer Anthony Hamilton, who also headlined his own Newport performance, the horns returned for an encore of "Tighten Up," popularized by Archie Bell and the Drells.
Since 1999, the trio of Eric Krasno (guitar) and brothers Alan and Neal Evans (drums and keyboards, respectively) hse been creating all-encompassing, often improvisational groove music as Soulive. Their high-energy act recently won them a new album deal: No Place Like Soul, featuring vocals, appears on the relaunched Stax Records. Fred Wesley made his name in the era of the original Stax label as a trombonist with James Brown, George Clinton and Count Basie. Since pursuing a solo career, he has continued to play with reunions of the J.B.'s, the backing band he'd led for the Godfather of Soul, and has written arrangements for a wide variety of acts.
It's certainly not the first time that Wesley and Soulive have collaborated. Wesley appeared on and directed a four-piece horn section for the band's 2001 recording Doin' Something, and has made appearances with the group ever since.
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