When it comes to live music in New York City, every week is special. This week should prove to be particularly notable, as Eric Krasno (Eric Krasno Band, Lettuce, Soulive) brings his friends along for a three-night run at one of New York’s most famous jazz clubs, Blue Note. Eric Krasno & Friends are doing two shows a night (8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.) through Wednesday, March 21st, with a different special guest announced for each night.
For the first night of the run, on Monday, Krasno welcomed special guest Snarky Puppy organist Cory Henry and surprise performer Jon Batiste. The house band consisted of Chris Loftin (Brian McKnight) on bass, Louis Cato (Jon Batiste and Stay Human, the house band on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) on drums, and Nigel Hall (Lettuce) on the keys. As Nigel mentioned to the crowd before they took the audience on a funk journey, along with Krasno, this band was formerly known as Chapter 2.
Seeing a show at Blue Note is unlike many shows because everyone is seated at a table, making for a more interesting dynamic between band and audience. To kick off the set, the band ripped right into a funky jam, with Chris Loftlin getting the crowd involved and clapping. Krasno had heads bopping at every table, as he offered some super funky guitar riffs while Nigel layering in some synthy rhythms.
Before launching into the second song, “Be Alright”, Nigel told the story of how the number led him to initially get involved with Krasno. Nigel had been living in Bangor, Maine, at the time, and Kraz called him to play on a song. Nigel thought it was Ryan Zoidis of Lettuce messing with him and almost hung up the phone. Apparently, Zoidis is notorious for playing pranks. Once he realized it wasn’t a joke, Krasno sent him “Be Alright” to listen and add to, and Nigel fell in love with it. And it was understandable why: Nigel took us to church with his soulful voice, and everyone in the crowd was feeling alright.
Four songs in, and the special guests in the crowd began to join the band onstage for sit-ins. First, it was Cory Henry, who joined Nigel Hall on the keyboard rig. They played a song originally written for Nick Daniels III and Dumpstaphunk called “Don’t Change For Me”. The joy in the room was evident, as Nigel could be seen slapping Cory on the back, and the audience, though seated, never stopped bopping and grooving.
A couple of songs later, Jon Batiste was invited to join the group onstage. Batiste stepped in to join Nigel on the keys, and Cory Henry joined Krasno in the center of the stage on the harpejji. Rumor has it that Batiste did not sit-in during the early set, so this was a special treat for only attendees of the late show. The six of them stayed onstage together throughout the remainder of the set, which lasted four more songs. When the band finally launched into the Buddy Miles classic “Them Changes”, the energy was electric, and people clapped and sung along.
It was a special Monday night of music in Greenwich Village. Watching such a talented, unique, diverse group of musicians onstage jamming together is quite an experience, as you can tell how much fun they are having exploring where they can take the music. As the band continues to warm up over the next two nights, Krasno will add in other special guests to the mix, including Questlove and Robert Randolph. You can check out photos from last night’s show below, courtesy of Chris Capaci.