ALBUM REVIEW: Soulive’s Neal Evans’ “Bang”
- By Brandon Chiat
- Published on May 03, 2012
On his first solo-album, “Bang,” Soulive organist Neal Evans takes listeners on a journey through cinematic soundscapes and deeply textured break beats. A multi-instrumentalist, Evans has been at work on “Bang” for the last several years personally overseeing the musical arrangements.
Abandoning the comforts of his Soulive partners Eric Krasno and brother Alan Evans, Neal retreated into the writing process alone. The result is a solo album that does not just accentuate his efforts as a keys player but also his prowess as a composer and arranger.
This is apparent on “Lucite,” in which a powerful horn section announces the album on a punctuated but brief first track. Evans is present as a pianist but makes clear to the listener that he intends the horns to dominate.
[FIND news, tour dates and dowloads via Neal Evans' official website.]
Of course, as in any solo project, Evans exhibits the flare that earned him international fame as a jazz and funk pianist, coming into his own on the album’s second track, “Adventurer”. The lead piano riff vibes with all the jazz tenderness of Vince Guaraldi. Never one to let the listener get comfortable, Evans challenges the smoothness of the intro with a guitar lick inspired by an old-world waltz that evokes images of Sicily and “The Godfather.” Breaking expectations yet again, Evans teases blues-inspired interludes before returning to the mellowness of the intro.
At first listen, “Bang” comes across as a movie-score, and that’s an intended effect. Evans credits film scores and soundtracks as a key ingredient to his songwriting, and consequently, “Bang,” plays out as a premeditated arrangement. Not a concept album, per se, the release engages the listener in a sonic storyline in which each track contributes to something greater.
Songs like “Crashland,”a hip-hop inspired track that features Evans dancing across the ivories, raining down a flurry of arpeggios and “Odds Against” are cinematically crafted. Evans constructs dramatic and complex soundscapes that evoke an emotional response from the listener, blending together all the elements and genres – hip-hop and jazz most prominently – that have inspired his musical career thus far.
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Evans uses “Bang” as a vehicle to venture beyond anything he’s done before. Still, tracks like “Is That It” and “Shakedown,” which features a fat bass groove and twangy guitar rhythm, sound like they could easily been taken out of a Soulive recording session.
While certain songs play out with the comfortable familiarity of the Soulive trio, “Bang,” is not so much about Evans escaping old stylings as it is furthering those sensibilities. Evans envelops his hybrid jazz-funk-soul sound within a passion for cinema, expanding on those genres to create textual soundscapes.
Purchase "Bang" on vinyl, CD or download as an MP3 via Neal Evans' official website.