Photo: Kory Thibeault
Longtime pals Eric Krasno (Soulive) and Stanton Moore (Galactic) have collaborated in a plethora of situations over the years, from tribute sets to superjams and myriad points between. The virtuoso guitarist and stalwart drummer formed the Krasno Moore Project about a year ago after the duo spent some quality time with one another during the 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
After gigging together for the umpteenth time in yet another dynamite late-night combination, yet again they sensed there was something deeper afoot within their musical chemistry. Both were interested to further explore this connection, and to take it to the next level. Soon they swiftly snapped up organist extraordinaire Eric Finland, who’s worked with Krasno in EK3, and the organ trio laid down a fantastic album at Levon Helm’s Woodstock studio, titled Book of Queens.
In consultation with their wives, on Book of Queens, Kraz and Stanton decided to interpolate and record select songs from some of their favorite women in music. Moore, who relied on the playlists his 18-year-old daughter makes for him, noted that they wanted to lean into the now, just as much as the classic, so legendary soul singers like Aretha Franklin and Sharon Jones naturally made the cut, but so did Billie Eilish, H.E.R., and Casey Musgraves—each among the most popular performers of today.
Just as their record was released in mid-March 2023, the dynamite new band took the show on the road from East to West, fleshing out some of the album’s cuts in the live element while digging into their respective catalogs too. KMP’s virgin jaunt saw them collaborate with the likes of Christian McBride, Danny Mayer, Scott Metzger, and Skerik, with different guests and different setlists in various cities on their route.
For the penultimate night of their debut tour across the U.S., the trio stormed into San Francisco and set up shop at The Chapel, an intimate, vibey venue located in The Mission. The event was presented by Guitar Player in tandem with FolkYeah! Galactic, Soulive, and Lettuce all have storied histories and legendary nights in the Bay Area, so there was a great deal of anticipation about this project and concert in the days leading up to Friday, April 7th.
As has been their custom in several cities they visited on this run, KMP called upon some local cats to ably assist their new operation. For the San Francisco engagement, it would be a pair of horns from Jazz Mafia joining Stanton and the Erics for a few songs on a Friday night in Fog City.
Performing to a capacity crowd at The Chapel, filled with fans of Kraz and Moore’s monumental work with contemporary jazz-funk pioneers Soulive, Lettuce, Galactic, and Garage a Trois, the trio wasted no time getting down to business. They opened the first frame with Stevie Wonder’s “Big Brother”, from 1974’s masterful Talking Book—a groovy kickstart to the night, giving way to “You Know I’m No Good”, the major R&B hit from the late, great songstress Amy Winehouse.
Another dearly departed soul legend, Sharon Jones was lamented and represented with “Nobody’s Baby”—a spirited, swaggering reading. Another Book of Queens gem, Billie Eilish’s “Lost Cause” was reimagined in a rare-groove format that clicked, giving the song a whole new identity.
Before unveiling Moore’s “Pot Licker”, Finland took a moment to profess his love for the contributions of both his bandmates over the years, remarking how they’d inspired him in his youth to keep pushing on and elevating his craft—a touching reflection. Other first set highlights included the Soulive version of The Beatles‘ timeless “Eleanor Rigby”, which never fails to stir the pot of feels within every fan present. “Soulactic Meters Medley” saw Moore, Kraz, and Finland really dig into a few chestnuts from the NOLA funk icons.
Towards the end of set one, KMP welcomed to the stage some local faves in Adam Theis and Tommy Occhiuto, a.k.a. the Jazz Mafia horns. Appropriately, the quintet dialed up Little Milton’s “That’s What Love Will Make You Do”, a classic R&B number that was adopted by Jerry Garcia Band. Kraz sang the sublime lead vocal, as Theis (trombone) and Occhiuto (sax) each took turns blowing their horns with panache. Krasno returned to his Rubber Soulive Beatles bag for a rousing “Get Back”, before they took a short intermission.
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Returning to the stage as a trio again, the second set kicked off with Kraz’s tribute to the recently departed Jeff Beck, “76” from his 2010 solo LP Reminisce. H.E.R.’s “Carried Away” dialed in some mid-tempo funk, and their interpretation of Casey Musgraves’ “Slow Burn” wowed the by-then-transfixed crowd. KMP showed how they could climb inside these songs of today and respectfully make them their own, while showing love to these young women currently killing the game.
“Pie-Eyed Manc”, from Stanton’s 2010 release Groove Alchemy, was another syncopated blast from the past that worked well in the now frontier. The same could be said for the iconic “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, as the squad took this Allman Brothers Band masterpiece for a long strange trip through the Dirty South and back again. This jam really worked in the organ trio format, as Finland and Krasno’s harmonic work on “Liz Reed” was nothing short of stunning, and Moore held down the backbeat groove with an assertive authority.
Speaking of classics, Carole King‘s “Natural Woman”, with Krasno on his old school hollow body axe, brought the house down—fantastic set placement and electrifying execution on a song that needs no introduction. Theis and Occhiuto returned to their spot at the rear center stage for a couple more cuts, including Moore’s super-funky “Sprung Monkey”, first released in 2004 on Take It To The Street. Set two concluded with more hollow body bliss from Kraz and funky riddims courtesy of Moore, delivering a tasty rare-groove gumbo called “For Granted” in homage to the late, great guitarist Grant Green.
After the throaty audience hollered and stomped for one final song, the trio returned for a well earned encore, performing “Unconditional Love” from Krasno’s 2016 LP Blood From a Stone. The evening’s musical journey complete, Stanton and the Erics took off for Hollywood and one final show on this embryonic KMP U.S. Tour 2023. We can only hope this happens once again.