S.O.U.L. at Una Mas, June 28. Tickets: $15. Attendance: 250. Rating: NNNN
in the crowded basement of Una Mas, the members of Cleveland jazz funk combo S.O.U.L. standing stageside in loud shirts, fussing over video cameras with their wives, could have been mistaken for any group of tourists up from the Midwest for the Downtown Jazz Festival. Appearances are deceiving.Once they strapped on their guitars, raised their horns and dug in on the one, there was no longer any doubt that these middle-aged men were indeed the same slick S.O.U.L. crew that used to rock Ohio players' balls back in the day.
Their groove was stone solid, thanks to In Demand Band drummer Botchie, subbing for regular timekeeper Paul Stubblefield, who couldn't fly up from Arizona for the gig. But the whole combo was surprisingly tight, considering they'd just reconnected a couple of nights before for their two Canadian dates in Toronto and at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
What was most striking about seeing S.O.U.L. in action was the strength of their voices. For a group that earned a sizable regional rep based on their funky instrumentals, S.O.U.L. had an exceptionally strong vocal presence in the front line of guitarist Beloyd Taylor, Lee Lovett, Larry Hancock and saxophonist/flutist Gus Hawkins, who could easily switch from sweet harmonizing to fiery testifying.
Some of the subtleties of their well-orchestrated interaction were lost due to a crummy mix, which is only to be expected at a live performance in a club set up for pre-recorded music, but the sweaty gathering didn't let it get in the way of getting down.
When the lyrical swing of Hawkins's flute flutter on Sleeping Beauty suddenly turned into the memorable lick from Burning Spear, the whole place exploded in one great roof-raising whoop that had the people dancing on the main floor rushing downstairs to see what the commotion was all about. Nothing but S.O.U.L.Tim pERLICH