Eric Krasno & Chapter 2 slay The Blue Note NYC
Eric Krasno and Chapter 2 featuring Nigel Hall, Louis Cato and Chris Loftlin spent the last 3 nights absolutely slaying the Blue Note in NYC in 6 sold out shows. A nor’ easter blanketing the NYC metro area could not even keep the jazz heads home as word had clearly gotten out how smoking the last 2 nights/4 sets had been that the Blue Note literally were turning people away that had bought tickets for tables because so many people showed up for the early show.
As Nigel Hall mentioned last night, Chapter 2 started a bond and musical and personal friendship at the highest level between Eric and Nigel which continues to this very day. The six sets were set up as a storytellers type of show. As the MC of the night, Nigel gave the audience a glimpse into the decade since the band, Chapter 2, started and told the audience how they met. Nigel was living in Maine and him and his mother were huge Soulive fans and knew Eric’s work. Eric, too, knew of Nigel via Ryan Zoidis (of Lettuce who is from Maine) and Eric called Nigel out of the blue and told him how he wrote all the music for “Reminisce” and after hearing Nigel’s voice online Eric sent him the music he had written (for ‘Reminisce’ his first solo album). Eric sent the first track “Nobody” and sent it to Nigel to practice and work out. A day later Nigel sent the recording to Eric and the next day Eric bought Nigel a ticket to NYC to be the vocalist on ‘Reminisce’ which was Nigel’s first plane ride ever. As he said last night, now he lives on those damn things. Both Louis Cato, drummer (who plays multiple instruments on The The Late Show with Stephen Colbert with Jon Batiste) and Chris Loflin the skilled and effervescent bass player sporting an endless smile during every show, rounded out the band Chapter 2. These 4 cats do not play together often and seemed thrilled to be playing together again after a long break at the most storied jazz venue in NYC, The Blue Note.
The first set started off with Chapter 2 and Robert Randolph, the slide guitar virtuoso, who fronts Robert Randolph and The Family Band. There were many moments where the crowd was reminded of what a close family the musicians were. Nigel used to play in Randolph’s band before becoming a full-time member of Lettuce. Also, Kraz and Robert have teamed up many times during Bowlive and tons of other supergroup, festival moments and there was no denying the love in the room, the talent and the energy between the musicians. Eric shined brightly, as usual, during a long, instrumental and funky “Get Back” and then “Hey Joe” with Robert singing and playing the hell of his beloved slide guitar. My favorite and the most unexpected song of the first set was “Presence of the Lord” by Blind Faith and written by Eric Clapton. Louis Cato and Krasno shared the vocals on this very deep tune which I have never heard any of them play in any of their previous ensembles. It was beautiful and hopefully, this tune will stick around because it was done lovely. Danny Clinch, the famed photographer and noted harmonica player, sat in with the boys playing the Muddy Water’s song “Mannish Boy” with Robert Randolph doing the singing including clearly improvised lines like “Im a Man…Im a New Jersey Turnpike man” in a nod to Randolph being from The Garden State, New Jersey. The 1 1/2 first set closed with an epic “Manic Depression” straight off the Reminisce album and had a few people bucking the always sit down in the Blue Note trend and got up and started dancing. At the end, the Blue Note crowd was on their feet cheering and clapping.
The second set started with only Chapter 2 on stage and with 76, which is an instrumental that is one of my favorites written by Krasno. After that tune, Kraz called up James Casey (from Trey Anastasio Band and Meghan Trainor, formally from Lettuce) to play a stupendous 5-minute sax solo “Don’t Change for Me” written by Kraz and Nigel for Nigel’s solo album “Ladies and Gentlemen…Nigel Hall.’ The rest of the set included a killer take on “Golden Time of Day” by MAZE and Frankie Beverly with Robert Randolph sitting in for the rest of the set. In one of my favorite moments, the ringleader of the night Eric Krasno sauntered up to the mic and sang a soulful “Sugaree.” It has been a wonderful experience watching Krasno finding his singing voice in the last few years. His album with his band the Eric Krasno Band “Blood From A Stone” has shown the multi-instrumental artists soulful singing voice to the world.
They do not do it often but if they put this group together it is a must see. Long live Eric Krasno and Chapter 2.
Photo: Dino Perrucci