Album Review: ‘Spark!’ by Soulive & Karl Denson

bill bodkin reviews the tribute ep…

The music of Soulive has always been a cinematic expression of soul, jazz and funk. Every guitar lick, high hat crash and tickle of the ivories evokes a wonderful mental picture, scoring the hip film that’s playing in your mind’s inner film projector.

With their latest record, the EP known as Spark!, Soulive along with master sax man Karl Denson, evoke the sound and imagery of a bygone era of jazz. It’s as if it were ripped straight from a smokey, velveteen jazz club located in the heart of New York City where suits and dresses were the dress code and old fashioneds weren’t actually old fashioned.

The album, which is only four tracks long, contains three covers: Yusef Lateef’s “Nubian Lady,” Freddie Hubbard’s “Povo” and Art Farmer’s “Soul Sides” along with the original tune “Spark!” — a tribute to the late guitarist Melvin Sparks. It’s a four track super chill record that’s the perfect for lazy Sunday afternoons or late nights kicking back at a hip, local hideaway.

If you’ve ever caught Soulive in concert before you know that this band performs with gusto and bombastic abandon — but here, much like their other cover record, the Beatles-inspired Rubber Soulive, you’re treated to Soulive at its most refined; its most chill. The same flourishes are there — Eric Krasno’s masterful guitar solos, Neal Evans frantic tickling of the ivories and Alan Evans machine gun drumming — they’re all just delivered through a smooth jazz filter. The addition of Denson just amplifies the smoothness. His classic jazz flute and sax playing just adds an element of smoothness to the entire EP.

In the end, while Spark! may be a just a four song album, it’s still an excellent listen, filled with smooth, extended jazz tracks that’ll make your realize why they call this genre of music “the sweet science.”

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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