Krasno/Moore Project‘s Book Of Queens, the debut release from stellar blues guitarist Eric Krasno (Soulive, Lettuce, Tedeschi Trucks Band) and legendary New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore (Galactic), is a dazzling work of instrumental alchemy far greater than the simple sum of its parts. It’s a rare and beautiful thing when established artists can come together without ego to serve the work at hand. Between the dynamic duo of Krasno and Moore and their primary accompanist, organist Eric Finland, plus special guests Cory Henry (Snarky Puppy, Funk Apostles), Branford Marsalis, and Robert Randolph, this release from The Concord Jazz record label brings some of the top voices in funk and jazz together to honor and amplify a variety of female songwriters.
Book Of Queens styles itself as an instrumental tribute to women in music, and it is that but so much more. Featuring a wildly diverse collection of material from artists ranging from the contemporary to the long since sadly passed including Billie Eilish, Aretha Franklin, H.E.R., Brittany Howard, Sharon Jones, Peggy Lee, Kacey Musgraves, Nina Simone, and Amy Winehouse, the songs, like the band, gain strength in their simply sharing space. Songs like “You Know I’m No Good” by the late Winehouse, for example, find new resonance in the retelling, with a studied sparseness between the economical blues notes from Kras against the flourishes and fills for which Moore is known.
That is not to say this is a simple two-man show. Organ whiz Eric Finland brings the soul, but he can also step back and grind away when needed, helping provide a pocket when Moore and Kras are both off exploring the tunes, as they do with great pay-off on the Sharon Jones tune “Nobody’s Baby”. Moore takes advantage of that extra bit of freedom, and Finland has plenty of moments of his own too, like the excellent chordal and choral work he pairs against Krasno’s elegant blues lines on the Dap-Kings tune. Then there are moments where all three players simply allow their respective lines to bubble together, such as the more reworked pieces like the country-tinged “Slow Burn” by Kacey Musgraves.
One can’t help but wonder what Billie Eilish would do over the top of Krasno and Moore’s straight blues and southern soul, but with a little help from Cory Henry, there is more than enough to make you say “Hallelujah” to yourself. Speaking of adding flavors, when it comes to a jazzy classic like Peggy Lee’s “Fever”, you couldn’t do much better than Branford Marsalis, whose wonderful sax work elevates the piece.
There are times when the original artist practically haunts the retellings, as the Queen Of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin, does on the transformed “A Natural Woman”. The hooks, lines, and sinkers of Krasno’s spot-on doubling of vocal melodies—whether alone, as in the case on the H.E.R. tune “Carried Away”, or joined by the always welcome pedal steel splendor of Robert Randolph on disc-closer and Nina Simone standard “I Just Wish I Knew How It Felt To Be Free”—make this a true guitarist’s guitar record.
One of the knocks of many a ”Super Band” project is the seeming need for each player to get a little extra space to show their skills, which can lead to bloated tracks that don’t ever seem to gel, but that simply isn’t the case here. Though left out of the group’s name, Finland plays a foundational role but with plenty of room to maneuver. That said, this is clearly a musical mediation between two driving forces, and the music gains so much from the space left between Moore and Krasno. Kras is never forced to hold back his burgeoning soul and blues power ebbs and flows, and Moore never needs to shy away from a chance to fill the pocket with snare runs of crackling delight. Given the versatility of the players and the thematic concept of the project itself, we are left in the end satisfied but still ready for more. Ask any entertainer and they’ll tell you, that’s exactly the goal, and in the case of this exceedingly impressive debut, The Krasno-Moore Project is a success in every way.
Listen to Book Of Queens by The Krasno/Moore Project below or on your preferred streaming platform. The album is also available on CD and vinyl here.
The Krasno-Moore Project trio is currently out on tour, with upcoming shows in the Midwest, Colorado, and the West Coast. Revisit Live For Live Music‘s coverage of the tour opener and Blue Note run. Scroll down for a list of tour dates.
Krasno/Moore Project – Book Of Queens
(Click playlist icon to navigate songs.)
The Krasno/Moore Project 2023 Tour Dates:
Mar 24, 2023 – City Winery | Chicago, IL
Mar 25, 2023 – Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox | Denver, CO
Apr 4, 2023 – Apr 5, 2023 – Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley | Seattle, WA
Apr 6, 2023 – Star Theater | Portland, OR
Apr 7, 2023 – The Chapel | San Francisco, CA
Apr 8, 2023 – Knitting Factory | Los Angeles, CA