As a high school junior, Eric Krasno was really into Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, like a lot of other teenaged guitar players.

Then he attended a music camp for high schoolers at Berklee College of Music in Boston and met other young musicians who opened him up to new sounds.

One of those was Ryan Zoidis, a saxophone player who was then going to Cheverus High School in Portland.

“Ryan introduced me to Tower of Power and great horn sounds like that, and someone else introduced me to Earth, Wind & Fire,” said Krasno, guitarist of the soul/jazz trio Soulive. “We connected instantly. He was a kid, but he could really play in a soulful way. I hadn’t met other kids my age who could play that way.”

In the early 1990s, Krasno, Zoidis and others at that camp formed a funk band called Lettuce. That band has played together off and on since then, even as Krasno went on to form Soulive and Zoidis joined Portland rockers Rustic Overtones. Zoidis has also played with Soulive over the years.

On Saturday, Krasno and Zoidis will be playing Portland’s State Theatre as part of “The Royal Family Ball with Soulive and Lettuce.” Royal Family is the record label started by the Soulive members.

For Zoidis, who lives in Portland, playing in Lettuce and Soulive has helped him achieve his dream of a career in music.

“I had always had dreams (of a music career) as a really young kid, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” said Zoidis, 36. “I’ve been on and off the road with Soulive for 10 years, and have had a pretty good run with Lettuce. It’s still not easy; I’m not rich.”

He has, however, had enough success to be able to live in New York and tour the world. He was especially fond of playing in Brazil because, he said, “The culture is so musical.”

He also got the chance to play with Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder on separate shows.

“We were on stage, and Stevie sat through the whole show,” Zoidis said. “Then the drummer introduced him, and he came on stage and played harmonica with us.”

In the “small world” category, Zoidis introduced another Portland musician, Nigel Hall, to the Soulive crew. Hall is now an artist on the Royal Family label and has toured with Lettuce, Warren Haynes, John Scofield and others. “I had moved back to Portland and met Nigel, and so when we needed a singer in Lettuce, I recommended him,” he said.

Krasno credits a lot of the success of Soulive with how prolific the band has been in recording, and how open to change members are. In the genre of soul/jazz/funk, it helps to be able to improvise.

During the Portland show, Krasno said Soulive will do a set of soul/jazz tunes, then be joined by Lettuce for a funkier set that will include horns.

“With Lettuce, it’s straight-ahead funk,” said Krasno. “It’s not quite as cerebral.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]


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