Sheraton jazzes it up this weekend

— While cruising down the highway to Amarillo, Texas, members of Galactic looked around at the familiar oil wells and dry land they had seen when they headed out on their first tour five years ago.

Sticking with conventional means of transportation because of a fear of flight, Galactic travels every month down the highway on a tour bus that has become home.

This New Orleans-based six-piece band will only be on tour for about three weeks before directing themselves on a course that leads straight into a tunnel of nationwide tours.

"We're on the same route as when we first went on the road," said Jeff Raines, guitar player for Galactic.

From drumming up some funky soul at six New Orleans Jazz Festivals to hitting the grooviest tunes at The Fillmore in San Francisco to punchy unstoppable rhythms at New York's Irving Plaza, Galactic serves the fans in Steamboat those same attributes.

While coming out with a live album in July and then a studio album out this fall, Galactic will have established their fifth album out of this world music.

Playing music in one of the most influential jazz and blues cities in the world, Raines said that's one of the only reasons he came to New Orleans in the first place.

Raines and childhood comrade Robert Mercurio, bassist, played music together growing up in Washington, D.C.

"It was by chance that we ended up together" in New Orleans, Raines said of Mercurio attending Tulane University.

While studying at Loyola University New Orleans, Raines said the music climax was so hot, that starting a band in the second city that doesn't sleep was inevitable.

"We're influenced by The Meters, a legendary funk band from New Orleans," Raines said, adding that Galactic's music has changed tremendously since then. "But now we're going our own direction."

A lot of improvisation and instruments blend well with the special guest who shows up for a few songs during each set Theryl "Houseman" de Clouet on vocals.

"He's a soul singer, like Otis Redding," Raines said, adding that "Houseman" has become a part of the family of musicians that all have been on the road together for the last five years. "We've always had a family kind of atmosphere," he said.

Raines eluded that playing the same instruments creates a connection with members of other bands. Playing with their buddies Soulive will be like de ja vous, he said.

A funky and soulful trio precedes Galactic Friday and Saturday as Soulive kicks off each evening with songs from their latest album "Doin' Something."

Just returning from a two- week tour in Japan, Soulive is ready to give the United States what it gave the Japanese a hard-core blend of soul intensive grooves that electrifies the audience with a flavor of old school jazz.

"We're a cross between old music, drum and bass, jazz all thrown together," said Alan Evans, guitar player for Soulive. "Obviously we listen to a lot of jazz, but it's funny, the biggest influence would be hip-hop."

While Alan, brother Neal on Hammond B-3 organ, and Eric Krasno on guitar, might pop in D'Angelo, Stevie Wonder or A Tribe Called Quest into the CD player, the 20-somethings have a hip-hop soul that will leave direct their tunes.

Soulive's latest album, released March 12 in the United States, was released in mid-February in Japan. By the time the band landed in Tokyo, it had a fan base that was larger than any they'd seen in America.

While the Evans brothers are rooted in New York, and Krasno in Connecticut, Alan said he's never seen so many people in a country so small.

"It must have been rush hour. We looked down the street and there's thousands of people, Evans said. "The people are so nice. There's a different vibe over there."

A television show on a popular Japanese network helped build the hype for Soulive's presence. Accompanied by Kiss, Sting and Christina Aguilera, Soulive thought it was all unreal until they sold 11,000 copies of "Doin' Something" in the first week it was released.

They may still consider themselves an up-and-coming band that is just starting out, but three albums in two-and-a-half years is much to boast about.

"Some areas we're really strong to bring people out to shows," Evans said shyly.

Playing for Karl Denson's Tiny Universe didn't give Evans the avenue of creativity he was craving, but after he finally found the freedom when the brothers reunited and started jamming with Krasno.

"It was cool playing with Karl, but it wasn't really my thing. I wanted a little more creative freedom, more control," Evans said. And now they've got it.

A solid contract with Blue Note Records will help Soulive record a few more albums, after that, Evans said it's all up in the air.

"We all contribute to each other's team whenever it's needed. We pretty much do what we want," Evans said.

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