Soulive Return to Classic Form & Refreshed Sound On ‘Cinematics, Vol. 1 EP’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Like photos of Soulive on their website, Cinematics, Vol. 1 is a long way from the close-cropped haircuts with suits and ties of the trio’s early days. And other changes wrought over that passage of time are equally evident with the release of this title the debut of the band’s own imprint: it’s available only in digital and vinyl only, not on CD.

The first Soulive recording project in six years, Vol. 1 is the first of a planned series of Cinematics titles, the direct result of the threesome convening in drummer /vocalist Alan Evans’ Iron Wax Studios. Not surprisingly, it exhibits the absorption of experience from the individuals’ various other projects in the interim: the suitable easygoing opener, “Kings March,” for instance, allows each of the three to flex just enough muscle to round out the track without the application of any studio effects for their own sake.

“Bluebird” is comparably leisurely of gait, with just the slightest addition of detail from guitars to keyboards to drums. This seemingly minute incremental expansion in part explains the EP’s title: the handful of cuts unfold almost like the aural equivalent of slow-motion, time-lapsed videography and it’s readily apparent how Soulive reasserts its bond in such a way it strengthens progressively over the duration of this title and its four counterparts.

“Sidekick” is as earthy as that which precedes it thanks largely to Evans’ foursquare drumming, but if, to some ears, there’s a decided lack of funk permeating these streamlined sounds, take that marked change as further evidence of this band’s continued evolution. In tandem and in contrast with Neal’s organ and piano, Krasno’s electric guitar embroidery (distorted and not)conjures a summery air similar to that which permeates the concluding track “Waves:” here the essence of Philly soul lies just below the surface of a (re)freshened Soulive sound.

Over the course of about half an hour, Soulive creates continuity within Cinematics Vol. 1 that should serve as a reliable foundation for subsequent studio endeavors as well as the groundwork for productive spontaneity in the live setting. There’s hardly a better compliment to pay any work of jazz.

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