With the Disco Biscuits playing across town on the same night, this was one of the toughest decisions of the holiday season. Though my buddy insists I chose incorrectly—and yes, the Biscuits setlist certainly looked tasty—I certainly didn’t regret taking in Soulive and the Greyboy Allstars at Nokia Theater.
After former Root Rahzel’s amusing and—in its own Michael Winslow-esque way—impressive performance, Soulive came on and drenched the stage with funky soul. Assisted by Toussaint (no, not Allen) on vocals, Krasno and the Brothers Evans worked through tight renditions of many of the tunes from their excellent 2007 album, No Place Like Soul. The entire performance was fiery, but the band exuded the most energy on “Comfort,” “One of Those Days” and the reggae-tinged “If This World Was a Song,” as well as on the separate guest appearances of Rahzel and Karl Denson.
Karl Denson, looking a bit less Herculean these days, began the Allstars set on flute, and he demonstrated his musical agility throughout the set, moving between flute, alto and tenor sax. Much more upbeat than last year’s fairly low-key performance, the set featured plenty of the band’s trademark soul jazz and numerous tracks from What Happened to Television?, their first album in ten years. Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and (new) Tea Leaf Green bassist Reed Mathis, fresh off an opening gig for Gov’t Mule uptown at the Beacon, took over bass duties for one track from Allstars bassist Chris Stillwell, who, despite his dad-like demeanor, can lay down a formidable bottom layer.
The Greyboy Allstars’ set was a definite improvement on the smooth jazz-plagued 2006 Nokia performance, and had the added bonus of the pairing with Soulive, who, as usual, ripped open the jazz/funk/soul template and found new life.