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Soulive Articel in the Globe and Mail


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check out this review and article from saturday's globe and mail about the To Progressive jazz series and Soulive...

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It's soul all right, but more than a bit dated

By MARK MILLER

Saturday, September 25, 2004 - Page R20

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Soulive

At the Opera House

In Toronto on Thursday

\ It has been quite a while since jazz fans in Canada's largest city have seen a season of the sort promised by the Toronto Progressive Jazz Concert Series -- no less than 11 shows by a relatively broad range of visiting acts and artists, mostly American and mostly venturesomely contemporary, from the bands of bassist Dave Holland and saxophonist Branford Marsalis to solo pianists Jason Moran, Andrew Hill, Brad Mehldau, as well as Geri Allen.

The question is this: How will Toronto fans, normally a cautious bunch, respond?

Quite well, it turns out -- at least to the series' second offering, the New York organ trio Soulive, which played to a fair-sized, young and enthusiastic crowd on Thursday night at The Opera House.

Exactly where Soulive fits into the series' "progressive jazz" scheme of things is, however, another matter. Note the band name: Soulive, not Jazzlive. And even in matters of soul -- or, more accurately, funk -- its terms of reference are hardly up to date.

The Evans brothers, Alan (drums) and Neal (organ and other keyboards), together with guitarist Eric Krasno and a two-piece, guest horn section, summoned up memories on Thursday of Jimi Hendrix (including a cover of his Crosstown Traffic), Cannonball Adderley and, at their hippest, the Brecker Brothers.

Only Krasno's apparent awareness of current guitar hero John Scofield occasionally updated the music to a point recognizable from some time within the last 10 years. And, to be fair, Soulive is part of the same recent phenomenon of groove-based instrumentalists that has given us, more prominently, the New York trio Medeski, Martin & Wood, which will be at the Kool Haus as part of this same series in December.

Indeed Soulive was at its incisive best in its 90-minute show when all five musicians were working sharply together over a hard groove, usually in the closing "shout" choruses of a tune.

But when any one member of the band -- Krasno, Neal Evans, trumpeter Rashawn Ross, saxophonist Ryan Zoidis -- stepped forward as a soloist atop the Evans brothers' often muddy-bottomed beat, the proceedings took an excessive turn toward easy improvisational rhetoric.

Soulive's Cannonball, a tribute to the aforementioned Adderley, embodied both elements. The tune itself borrowed slyly from Adderley's 1967 hit Mercy, Mercy, Mercy -- you take your subtleties when and where you can find them with this band -- but the performance came up staggering under the blunt force of Ryan Zoidis's histrionic tenor solo.

Otherwise, Soulive played a variety of scarcely differentiated dance pieces whose obvious, crowd-working arrangements had this crowd reacting right on cue with hearty circus cheers. Would, though, that the music involved had been even occasionally death-defying.

The Toronto Progressive Jazz Concert Series continues Oct. 1 with performances by Jason Moran and the Dave Holland Quintet at the George Weston Recital Hall.

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So I'm not expecting this to go to print, but they had to read it...sent this to the editor. hope they don't dismiss my ideas as being too harsh.

I just finished reading 'It's soul all right, but more than a bit dated' By MARK MILLER and i was wondering where the review of the show was. He certainly smugly wrote about the show. He made snyde little comments about how it wasn't JAZZ. he commented about how conservative jazz fans in toronto are and he comes across as a part of the flock. Is this a writer that has to have his music labelled? As he commented that 'Exactly where Soulive fits into the series' "progressive jazz" scheme of things is, however, another matter. Note the band name: Soulive, not Jazzlive. And even in matters of soul -- or, more accurately, funk -- its terms of reference are hardly up to date.' If you can't think objectively about the name of a festival should you really be writing about it?

If you listen to 'new' jazz music and you won't find much that hasn't been done. I dare you to go back and raid some obscure 1970's record collections and you'll find more out there jazz and fusions of styles than you'll see in today's 'hip' jazz...the Brecker Brothers?? I guess it's apparent Mr. Miller listens to a lot of Jazz FM.

What takes the cake is the comment that 'the proceedings took an excessive turn toward easy improvisational rhetoric'. It's a soulive show. Has he ever even heard Soulive before going to the show? This is a band that makes soulful jazz funk for people to be able to dance to. Not for some snooty guy in his lexus to pick apart on his way home from work to feel more musically superior...because he understands math. Let's not forget the roots and essence of Jazz music - it was dance music made for groovin.

It's articles like this that get circulated in major news media that are keeping youth from getting interested in more challenging music. Soulive aren't for purists. Soulive aren't for uptight snooty musicologists to pick apart to figure whether or not they're 'good enough'.

I'm sure the show was a helluva lot better than a Brittany Spears concert or a night out at the same old dance club where people are 'looking' for a good time rather than HAVING a good time.

Why can't somebody write a piece about what the show was like, the atmosphere of the room, the crowd, the expressions and the essence of the show to set up other concerts or even to just have a well written article. I wasted my time reading this piece, and I'm sure there are a lot of people that like all kinds of jazz music that have been turned off this fun YOUNG band that would have otherwise really loved seeing them play.

Bands like Soulive could have a serious following in Canada like they do in the United States. They've played all sorts of festivals and showcases, even the ultra huge Bonnaroo festival in Tennesee - one of the world's biggest and best music experiences as ranked by countless major music media outfits. If we keep giving half-assed and snooty reviews then promoters won't have any fans to appeal to. There's a reason that live music is dying in Canada - More and more music venues are going under and it's all because the media is doing a piss poor job promoting live entertainment and the merits of going to a show...like people having a great time. Do you ever wonder why we don't see as many top notch American acts in Canada?? The market isn't supported at all - all it takes is some good writing and a positive outlook.

So it wasn't a mind-blowing night of jazz...well whoo-pee. That's not the point. The point was to put on a great show that helps showcase interesting diverse Jazz in a city that really needs the support. As it's stated in the article, Soulive played to a fair-sized, young and enthusiastic crowd. That very important issue was NOT supported in the rest of the article at all. All Mr. Miller did was go on about how marginal his musical experience was cause of this and that or how it's not 'progressive' enough for him.

When people read a positive reaction in a newspaper they tend to get enthused. Now that you've set up the festival to have a dud you've marginalized the tone of the rest of the entire festival. These artists are all top notch performers and deserve way more respect than you, the Globe and Mail, just gave them. Perhaps you should rethink your overall outlook. Sure it's important to question news and issues but what did the Evans brothers ever do to you? Worried they're going to terrorize your dancing shoes??

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Soulive aren't for purists. Soulive aren't for uptight snooty musicologists to pick apart to figure whether or not they're 'good enough'.

I'm sure the show was a helluva lot better than a Brittany Spears concert or a night out at the same old dance club where people are 'looking' for a good time rather than HAVING a good time.

Would you have complained about his snooty dissection if the outcome had been more positive?

Here's the thing that you seem to be constantly missing lately, Beats: people have different opinions about things, different likes and dislikes. Some people like Gram Parsons, and some people (for reasons I will never comprehend) like the Disco Biscuits. Some people actually like going to dance clubs, seeing their friends, and having a good time dancing to tunes that they are familiar with; others like to go to live music clubs. Some people like baseball, while others prefer to watch "Survivor". And if Britney Spears sucks, so what? She seems to make a lot of people happy at most of her shows, and I really don't think that she's stealing any fans who are likely to have seen Grand Theft Bus that night if they didn't already have Britney tickets.

The music that many of us listen to on this board isn't for everyone, and their reasons for disliking it may be as complex as Mark Miller's or as simple as, "I don't like it."

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I never thought a letter to the editor could be more ignorant until I read yours.

Was I asleep when we hired Mark Miller to promote Jambands? Am I crazy to think that Word of mouth is the best way to promote a band, and probably explains 95% of a jamband show vs. 5% checking the name out in the paper? I'm sorry if I'm coming across harshly here but I'm not quite sure if anywhere in your retort you actually came up with something about Mark's article that was unfair. He wanted more progressive and "death-defying" music than what was played. And this is a crime?

it's all because the media is doing a piss poor job promoting live entertainment and the merits of going to a show...like people having a great time.

I don't want any part of a media that does what you're asking them to. I do, however, want honest and if necessary critical reviews of music in both recorded and live form.

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i never said the media should promote jambands.

but it was such a wishy washy article...'is it a positive or negative review' was the tone that i got from it, as well as CyberHippie and MuleMomma - not to say that they share my views, but the article didn't really say anything in particular.

I'm not saying that the media should promote everything blindly but it wouldn't hurt for a writer to write well enough to make people think that live music is worthwhile rather than just being a marginal time. I don't mind that he doesn't like soulive, but it seemed obvoius that he went to the show blindly, not having spent much time listening to a soulive disc or hearing a show - that's how he comes across. why would you review a show of a band you know nothing about? to get in for free? to promote your personal musical agenda? His review was sort of half critical. it came across as a poorly written article that told me nothing about the show and didn't set much up for the rest of the festival.

we're all entitled to our opinions. you should keep yours (but not to yourself) and i'm going to keep mine. Major newspapers rarely cover acts that aren't big and when they do have smaller arts coverage it seems mediocre at best.

and, hamilton - i'm not missing the point that people like different things. i just don't try to support that fact in what i put out. why would i do that? say 'i like this but i understand you might not'?? come on. i was trying to make the point that music writers aren't doing a good job for the most part because of negativity or undue cynicism. did Miller say 'the show wasn't for me because of this and this and this and this but they did all of that quite well (or not so well)'

nope. he wrote an ambiguous article seemingly to save $25 on a ticket to see a band he seemingly knew nothing about.

I dont' expect anyone to think the way i do just because i decided to post a letter i write to the globe and mail, nor do i assume people are going to agree with me. maybe it was a bit long, but I think that the things I write had to be said sometime. Maybe it'll make someone think about their writing over at the globe. I felt like i wasted my time reading a boring article. the globe and mail is a respected paper and they deserve to have writers that get people interested in the newspaper and the subjects they write about.

i think the situation at hand is that i'm a sh!t disturber from time to time and not everyone can appreciate it.

do i really give a damn?

i appreciate your criticism of MY writing. if i'm going to dish it out i deserve to get it back.

Miller never said anything unfair. i never said he wrote anything unfair. I just was frustrated with his tone and the content. i dont' understand how i came off as 'ignorant'...wouldn't it be more fair to say it's ignorant to not even hear a band before expecting something specific from them?? 'death-defying' jazz?? come on. all he'd have to do is go to a website or do a Kazaa search. i think it's ignorant for someone to write for the globe and mail and not research the subject he or she is going to write about.

Maybe i'm asking too much from what the current news media is able to give me...but to be honest, people have more potential than they know and I think that a lot of newspaper entertainment sections will never live up to their potentials at the rate of growth they're dishing out these days.

sorry if i demand a bit mroe quality from a respected newspaper and that bothers you. I'm sure it's hard to get a job at the globe. i always thought that would mean the articles should be informative, thought provoking, and well written. could I do a beter job? maybe not. I'd give it a go if i could get a job at the globe. anyone at the globe going to call my bluff? if i can't hack it i won't deny it.

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Canned Beats - "Why would you review a show of a band you know nothing about?"

When asked to write reviews, I often say to myself "How can I write anything about them? I don't know jack about them." The guidence I am always given, is to write about what they do for me. It's not necessary to know everything about a band to write a review of their show. My reviews definitly lack detail and never delve into the history of a band, but rather convey to others my experience.

I didn't find the G&M review anything spectacular, but it certainly isn't the disaster you've made it out to be.

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This is a bit of a tricky issue. Of course we all like different things and have different tastes in music. Miller made a few references that alluded to the crowd really digging it. I thought it was a great show, and tons of people in the crowd did as well. I still don't totally get Mr. Miller's review, but lets assume it is negative, this brings up a whole other issue.

Clearly a lot of people dug the show. Now could be because, they've been digging Soulive for a long time, could be they were really high, could be it was good on a technical level, or any other number of reasons. Many people who attended the show would give a positive review. Now, who should be writing these reviews? If it's a fan, obviously the review will be overly biased on a positive slant. But clearly if Miller was say a Britney Spears fan the review would likely be pretty negative. I'm not sure how we determine the right person to be reviewing a show, but I do think that if the wrong person was to write a review it could definitely cause potential fans to skip it next time around.

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fu©k.

A) I make a distinction between a review for a genre-boosting forum like this or for Relix and one for a National daily newspaper. Arts critics shouldn't be burdened with the after-effects of their review, they serve a function, promoters and industry types serve another. The independent media should not be seen as a tool for promotion. Your question to the editors, "what did the Evans brothers ever do to you?" betrays your misconceptions as to what a newspaper actually is.

B) I think it's a bit rich to suggest that this piece leads to the notion that "a lot of newspaper entertainment sections will never live up to their potentials at the rate of growth they're dishing out these days". How is this rate of growth measured? By a Soulive review?!? Seems like an awfully generalized statement.

C) it just seems like sour fu©king grapes to suggest Mr Miller simply took on a review assignment to save himself $25 for a night out. This is just biased speculation with no regard for a writer doing what he or she is paid to do: go to this arts event and write on it. I think you're just pissed because he didn't give a feel-good review about how excellent it is that younger people are getting together and listening to a form of jazz-related music that clearly hearkens back to what has already been done in the past. THis seems to the basis of his main criticism, that for a "progressive" jazz series, there was (in his estimation) little "progressive" about it. Further, how did you ascertain that he had never heard Soulive before? The review doesn't suggest anything about that, it's just a red herring. You say it is obvious, I say it is not.

D) You state the article is not informative. Seems to me if I knew nothing about Soulive before reading it, by the end I would know: that Soulive are an organ-based trio from New York City, the names of the core band members, that they are part of a current trend around the fringes of jazz that puts emphasis on groove-oriented dance numbers and that the show was part of a bigger ongoing jazz festival. It's a 500-word review, probably the limits to which his editors assigned him (or what he felt was appropriate), how deep do you want him to go?

E) Kung/Zero/Luke is a sh!t disturber, not Canned Beats. Don't flatter yourself.

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i was trying to make the point that music writers aren't doing a good job for the most part because of negativity or undue cynicism. did Miller say 'the show wasn't for me because of this and this and this and this but they did all of that quite well (or not so well)'

nope. he wrote an ambiguous article seemingly to save $25 on a ticket to see a band he seemingly knew nothing about.

Can't you read between the lines? His criticisms of the show (which can likely be interpreted as reasons he didn't like it) included the following:

muddy sound, particularly the bottom-end;

too many of the songs sounded similar to each other;

uninspired jamming;

sub-par solos.

In addition, he felt that they were inappropriately placed on a bill of artists who are much more progressive - a fair criticism, I'd say (I *do* like Soulive, but let's face it - they *are* much more retro than progressive, especially in light of the other artists on the bill, like Dave Holland and Jason Moran).

Now, I wasn't at the show, so I can't compare my notes to his - but it does seem to convey what he thought of the show - his opinion, which he is both entitled to and paid to express.

And yes, there were positive things, too - he said that the ensemble playing was tight, and that the crowd had an excellent time. So I can't see what your talking about when you say thathe doesn't say what he liked and disliked.

I'm sure glad that I'm not the entertainment editor at the Globe & Mail.

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That's one way of looking at it Hippie. The article is decently written but I agree that it doesn't do much more than try and figure out why the band has it's name, why they're playing a jazz series and why they aren't capable of being a death-defying jazz band (i.e. "whenever a member stepped out...improvisational rhetoric"). But I don't blame him for trying to do so and perhaps wondering what it was about them that had the crowd moving. I'm sure some of the reasons you mention come into play there.

Perspective-wise, and given this was a show review and not an album review, there's no reason why he'd be expected to listen to or research the band he's about to see. Had he done so maybe he'd have never seen them in the first place and the band would have had no publicity whatsoever.

sorry if i demand a bit mroe quality from a respected newspaper and that bothers you.

C'mon now you big baby I said nothing of substance or quality in my post, nor did you in your letter to the editor:

If we keep giving half-assed and snooty reviews then promoters won't have any fans to appeal to. There's a reason that live music is dying in Canada - More and more music venues are going under and it's all because the media is doing a piss poor job promoting live entertainment and the merits of going to a show...like people having a great time. Do you ever wonder why we don't see as many top notch American acts in Canada?? The market isn't supported at all - all it takes is some good writing and a positive outlook

If you or someone you know needs a newspaper to tell them that live music = good, I fear for their future. And as for market support for touring American acts we're going to need a lot more money and good blow to make that happen...reviews in the Globe be they positive or negative are one part of a larger problem.

P.S. You should definitely email mark Miller directly because I'd be curious to see what his take on this is.

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If we keep giving half-assed and snooty reviews then promoters won't have any fans to appeal to. There's a reason that live music is dying in Canada - More and more music venues are going under and it's all because the media is doing a piss poor job promoting live entertainment and the merits of going to a show...like people having a great time. Do you ever wonder why we don't see as many top notch American acts in Canada?? The market isn't supported at all - all it takes is some good writing and a positive outlook

Well then, I can't wait to read your positive, upbeat review of the next Britney Spears show.

It's also nice to see that now, it's the media you're blaming for the decline in live music attendance, despite the fact that shows - and large ones at that, including major festivals - have been getting cancelled all over North America this summer. I'm getting dizzy trying to keep track of what's dragging the industry down... is it Reality TV? Dance clubs? Cover bands? Pop music divas?

If people weren't having fun with these other activities and pastimes, they wouldn't be engaged in them.

Perhaps you should be asking, "How can we do a better job of promoting shows?" rather than "What external forces are preventing (or distracting) people from coming to shows?"

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i'm glad that you think i'm not a serious sh!t disturber. as you've likely concluded, i like to talk.

i'm kinda suprised people actually kept adding to the thread after a ridiculously long post.

I'm not seriously angry about the article, but it seemed mediocre at best and mediocrity is one of those things that people shouldn't have to put up with...but people seem to do it blindly a lot of the time.

I'd likely give a brittany spears show an upbeat positive review. it'd be a spectacle for sure and that's what it'd try to be.

and it's also nice to see, hamilton, that you (and likely a bunch of other people) are keeping track about what i blather on about that's hurting live music. at least you're thinking about these things and not blindly supporting the scene above all else.

Maybe i should email mark miller...gotta find his address.

give it some time. i need to eat.

i have a feeling that some of you might think i'm a bit of a tool. i sure hope so. it's nice to get responses either way regarding views i throw out there.

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I'm not seriously angry about the article, but it seemed mediocre at best and mediocrity is one of those things that people shouldn't have to put up with...but people seem to do it blindly a lot of the time.

Mediocre? Like most of the jam-bands out there, you mean? You're right... we shouldn't have to put up with that.

and it's also nice to see, hamilton, that you (and likely a bunch of other people) are keeping track about what i blather on about that's hurting live music. at least you're thinking about these things and not blindly supporting the scene above all else.

Ironically, I'd be less likely to have remembered the reasons you've given if they actually made any sense and weren't so entirely ludicrous.

Isn't giving positive, upbeat reviews of things you don't think are very good the same thing as blindly supporting something? Like, say, a scene?

Maybe i should email mark miller...gotta find his address. give it some time.

Gawd help him.

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come on now hamilton...are you mad at me?

i'm not expecting anyone to give fake reviews, but the article was pretty vague. are you seriously upset that i wrote a 'scathing'(i didn't think it was that bad) letter to an editor or are you more upset that i wasted your time with it? you sure seem to like to write in response to things that I post on here.

you're a serious guy. right now, i'm probably not as serious as you are...

are you frustrated at something other than me and what i'm writing about? do you not like soulive?

i'm all eyes, hamilton.

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I like Soulive quite a bit, actually. I wish I had been able to go to the show. Unfortunately, I had to work. C'est la vie.

Mark Miller, apparently, did not enjoy Soulive so much, which is his right. His article was fine - not Pulitzer Prize coverage to be sure, but hardly "mediocre" (go back and read MarcO's post), and certainly not worthy of a novel-length letter to the editor accusing the media of trying to sabotage the live music scene and suggesting that they give up editorializing and write positive stories... that you sent *three times* to the poor dude. Now, you're considering going after the writer.

I'm not mad about anything else, either.

There's just an incredible lack of logic, coherence, and intelligence to the statements you've made in this thread (not to mention the ones blaming dance clubs and Reality TV for the decline of live music - neither of which, before you ask, are things that I have any association with), and felt compelled to point (some of) them out. It seems that ahess and MarcO felt compelled to as well.

I'm going to go listen to MMW now... cheers!!

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Bands like Soulive could have a serious following in Canada like they do in the United States. They've played all sorts of festivals and showcases, even the ultra huge Bonnaroo festival in Tennesee - one of the world's biggest and best music experiences as ranked by countless major music media outfits. If we keep giving half-assed and snooty reviews then promoters won't have any fans to appeal to. There's a reason that live music is dying in Canada - More and more music venues are going under and it's all because the media is doing a piss poor job promoting live entertainment and the merits of going to a show...like people having a great time. Do you ever wonder why we don't see as many top notch American acts in Canada?? The market isn't supported at all - all it takes is some good writing and a positive outlook.

Where are the stats that tells you that "we don't see as many top notch American acts in Canada?" Do you mean jamband acts? Because major Candian cities of which there are three, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, get good ratio of major acts that correspond to population.

On www.pollstar.com Toronto places in at twelve and Vancouver and Montreal are in the top twenty or so. When "major" world acts go on tour these three cities especially Toronto are usually a the schedule.

Here are some examples of American and "top notch" bands coming to special Canadian events.

When Tom Waits does dates this fall one of his two North American stops are in Vancouver.

Last year the Rolling Stones came to Toronto to put on the largest single day paying attended concert in history in support of the Canadian city. The Rolling Stones have also used Toronto to practice for their last three World Tours.

In 2001 R.E.M. choose Toronto as only a handful of cities to perform a free concert on a street.

These are only a handful of examples of American or "top notch" bands coming to Canada to perform.

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