The importance of the groove in jazz ought to be self-evident — though it often isn’t in most circles — and for Soulive, it is the fountain from which everything gushes forth. Fresh from a series of New York City showcases earlier this year, this contemporary update of a good old-fashioned organ trio gave the crowded dance floor of the Knitting Factory on Thursday night (and early Friday morning) the groove and nothing but the groove — loud, hard and tight.
On Tuesday, the band issued its first “official” live album for the groove-happy Blue Note label with the simple, self-explanatory title “Soulive” — and what you heard on the stereo was pretty much what you got onstage. Keyboardist Neal Evans wasn’t one for showing off his linear solo chops or coaxing interplanetary effects from his vintage Hammond B-3 organ, Hohner clavinet, Roland synthesizer and wah-wah pedals. He just locked into whatever funky rhythms drummer Alan Evans and guitarist Eric Krasno served up, sometimes content to riff on just one note.
Together, this band is a single-minded, indivisible organism, a slave to the groove — and in some tunes, when the groove wasn’t as irresistible as in others, there was little else going on in the music to compensate. Nor did the murky, blasting sound help their cause. However, their reputation as a jam band has attracted some interesting walk-on guests recently — and this time, it was vocalist Ivan Neville, who offered a gritty medley of Stevie Wonder’s “Jesus Children of America,” Sly Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay,” and the late Edwin Starr’s “War.”
Opening for Soulive was Maktub, a young polystylistic band from Seattle on its first national tour who also released an album Tuesday, “Khronos,” on Velour (originally issued on Ossia in 2002). The album shows that this group is capable of producing subtle, minor-key, brooding, even weird electronic textures — which they did in their final number. But on this occasion, with the dance floor slowly filling up, they concentrated mainly upon upbeat, pile-driven pop/soul, with Reggie Watts laying down silky vocals through either of two microphones — one treated with effects, the other not.