Guitarist Eric Krasno stretches beyond Soulive's jazz and funk


via Daily Progress

A hallmark of master musicians is their ability to play with seemingly effortless grace.

This aptitude will be on display Wednesday evening when guitarist Eric Krasno brings his band to the Southern Cafe and Music Hall in Charlottesville. Also on the bill is Richmond-based band Butcher Brown, which will be playing music ranging from jazz and funk to “elegant compositions.”

Krasno recently laughed during an interview when it was remarked that he looks to be a musician who plays with great ease. He said that although playing the guitar came naturally to him, it’s not as easy as he makes it look.

“I remember Stevie Ray Vaughan saying that he knew he was in the right place, musically, when he wasn’t thinking at all,” Krasno said. “I understand what he was saying.

“For me, the effort goes into the preparation, and then when I’m playing live, I try not to think and let the music flow out. I’m always striving for that moment, and the more we catch that moment, the better we are.

“Over the years, I’ve been able to tap into that more and more. The more I play, and the more I’m out there gigging, the more it happens.”

Krasno is perhaps best known for his guitar work with the bands Soulive and Lettuce, both of which he helped found. These days, the Grammy winner is touring with the Eric Krasno Band in support of “Blood From a Stone.”

Although the guitarist recorded a solo album around 2006, it was filled with mostly instrumental works. The new disc has him singing, which is somewhat new for him.

“When I was a kid, I did sing some in the choir and musicals at school,” said Krasno, who grew up outside of New York City. “Once I got to be a teenager, I was all about playing the guitar — and I thought that was the cool thing to do.

“Then later on, especially in my late 20s and early 30s, I really got into songwriting. I started doing a lot of production and songwriting with other artists.

“At some point, I wanted to combine all that together and make a record that was my own. My friend Dave Gutter, who is the co-writer on the album, pushed me to sing the songs myself. With his encouragement I decided to do it.

“To be honest, I consider this my first album, because this is the first one with my vocals on it.”

After making the record, Krasno put together an all-star band to start touring with. He plays guitar and provides lead vocals, and Mary Corso sings backing vocals and lead on certain numbers.

Deshawn Alexander plays keyboards, Danny Mayer plays guitar, Stu Mahan is on bass and Eric Kalb plays drums.

“I have a lot of guitar on the album, and I wanted to represent that live,” Krasno said. “Mary is kind of like our secret weapon.

“She is a star in her own right and is an amazing, soulful singer. I was able to handpick all the musicians, and now the great thing is that the whole project is evolving and becoming its own thing.

“You’ll see at the live show that we have taken these songs to a new place. And we’re writing a lot of new songs, and throwing in a couple of covers here and there that fit the right vibe of the band.”

Although Krasno can play just about any style of music he puts his mind to, he said his roots are in rock ’n’ roll. He thanks guitar gods like Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page for steering him to his ultimate instrument of choice.

“I played bass first and I was also into playing trumpet,” Krasno said. “But my dad and brother played the guitar, and I gravitated toward that.

“I was always into soulful music and singers. I thought the guitar emulated the voice really well, because of the vibrato and bending of the strings that you can do. It seemed like the most expressive instrument to me.

“I always wanted to be a professional musician, although I didn’t know exactly how to do it. When I was young, it didn’t matter if I made any money.

“As long as I could play music with my friends every day, I was happy. Then I set my sights on different goals as I progressed with my career.”

Krasno’s career has found him working as a producer and songwriter for acts like Norah Jones, Tedeschi Trucks, Aaron Neville and Allen Stone. His highlights include opening for the Dave Matthews Band and the Rolling Stones.

“Playing with the Rolling Stones was like a dream,” Krasno said. “They’re my dad’s favorite group, ever. So, I grew up hearing their music playing in my house.

“They’re the greatest guys in the world. And it was great opening for the Dave Matthews Band and Neil Young when they played in Charlottesville.

“I’m very thankful for everything that has come my way. The older I get, the more I appreciate where I am at that moment.”