The Critics Rave!

Reviews of Soulio’s debut CD…

Trombonist John Janowiak’s nickname “Johnny Showtime” speaks volumes about Soulio’s music. The Chicago quintet plays in a rhythmic style that makes no bones about aiming to please. Soulio boasts of bringing soul back to jazz, but its sound is actually an amalgam of loping funk, Blue Note-like hard bop and a blues-driven vibe reminiscent of the Jazz Crusaders.

The band neatly skirts the down-and-dirty, applying sheen to the material that keeps things from getting too deep. Yet within its particular niche, Soulio sounds like a band in command. Janowiak logged many years in another Chicago ensemble, Liquid Soul, and there’s a similar, if slightly rootsier groove laid down here. Fat walking bass lines drive the tunes, while Janowiak weaves and bobs with his sparring partner, saxophonist Matt Shevitz. Both display panache for forceful tones and bluesy, growling solos and, for the most part, they surround themselves with guest soloists who do the same.

The band is at its best on hard straight-time grooves, and three in this set—Adderley’s “Inside Straight,” Eddie Harris’ “Cold Duck Time” and Shevitz’s “Large Marge”—nicely fill the bill. And, no doubt, the dance floor.

—Jeff McCord
DownBeat, April 2008

Upbeat and thoroughly grooving…. They largely spawn literal readings of these familiar compositions, but add a hip and somewhat rebel-rousing vibe to the overall session. It’s jazz music that comes at you from disparate angles, where the band communicates a distinct sense of good cheer throughout.

—Glenn Astarita

Good time straight ahead soul-jazz that is meant to be enjoyed by listeners or dancers alike. The interplay between all the band members and horn players Janowiak and Shevitz especially is joyous…. Janowiak, Leali, Shevitz and company take the listener to Gibraltar, Selma and Ghana and back without leaving the confines of a Chicago nightclub, and it’s a welcome and enjoyable trip indeed.

—Brad Walseth
Full review

A hip combo with a very old school approach—one that’s a mix of soul jazz and instrumental funk modes, served up with classic instrumental styles! The group’s leader plays some very mean trombone—as gritty as Fred Wesley at points, but with a more fluid jazzy feel at others—and the rest of the lineup includes tenor sax, guitar, and a mix of electric piano, Hammond, and Fender Rhodes that changes from track to track, helping create a nice sense of mood in the album. There’s a strong inspiration here from the hipper side of the 60s spectrum….

—Dusty Groove America

The modern jazz in New York City or Europe may possess sophistication and smoothness and may be progressing musically, but on the other hand, we cannot deny that they have lost the little bit of the bad-assness, the dark side that musicians like Lee Morgan, Jimmy Smith and Cannonball Adderley had. For those who have been griping that lately they can’t find the kind of rebeliousness, the rich, deep substance that originally existed in jazz music, what I would like to recommend is this! The album by Soulio, a group of young Chicago musicians.

—Vento Azul
Hiroshima, Japan
Full review (Japanese)

Soulio have already figured out what it takes to make a compellingly smooth jazz album, and this is just their debut. The Chicago quintet possess a natural ability for seamlessly fusing funk, soul, and jazz, for varying tempos to create any mood they want, and for allowing each instrument to shine at just the right time. Their self-titled 60-minute debut runs the gamut from an easygoing, kick-back vibe to funk-infused groove tracks.

– Carter Moss, Illinois Entertainer