Utilizing hip-hop, jazz, New Orleans R&B, blues, and rock in their gumbo, Lettuce is a New York-based collective who update the sound of classic '70s funk. The band's founding members include guitarists Eric Krasno and Adam "Shmeeans" Smirnof, keyboardist Neal Evans, drummer Adam Deitch, saxophonists Ryan Zoidis and Sam Kininger, and bassist Erick "E.D." Coomes. The group's debut long-player, Outta Here, wasn't released until 2002, on their tenth anniversary. By the time of its release, Krasno and Neal Evans were working members of Soulive, and Deitch had been a member of John Scofield's road band for a while. But recording seemed to be the least of Lettuce's career concerns. They continued to tour the globe and work on side and joint projects for another six years before Rage! appeared on Velour. Two decades after they began, they entered the jazz album charts with 2012's Fly, and three years later topped them with Crush. In 2017, after a quarter-century together, they issued their live tribute to Miles Davis with Witches Stew before returning to the studio for 2019's Elevate and 2020's Resonate.
Lettuce got together in 1992 while still in their teens. They were attending a summer program at Boston's Berklee College of Music and were drawn together by a mutual love of Earth Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, and jazz-funk acts like Headhunters. Staying in touch and informally jamming together over the next year, they reassembled formally in 1994 upon returning to Berklee as undergrads. A live set was put together and members went door to door at jazz clubs asking owners to "let us play." Their name derives from those origins. Lettuce eventually got their chance. They made good on it with fine material and an energetic live show. The band got lots of local work. As word spread, they also built a reputation in New York first, and eventually in San Francisco and Tokyo. They toured as much as possible for the next eight years. In the interim, Krasno, Evans, and Kininger formed the groove trio Soulive, Lettuce's brother band.
Deitch is also a member of Break Science and has played with everyone from John Scofield and 50 Cent to Talib Kweli and Wyclef Jean. Coomes, a California native, is a noted producer, musical director for Anthony Hamilton's band, and a touring bassist for Britney Spears and the Game. Veteran trumpeter Rashawn Ross (another Berklee alum) joined the band as a part-time member (he was already working as a touring musician elsewhere). The group issued Live in Tokyo, recorded at Japan's Blue Note. Lettuce toured whenever feasible, given the bandmembers' other commitments, making their shows bona fide events. Rage! was issued in 2009. Also receiving nearly universal critical notice, it served to enhance the band's reputation on the live circuit -- especially when they played as part of a one-two punch with Soulive. Kininger left both groups in 2010. Ross became a full-time member of Dave Matthews Band, and was replaced by full-time trumpeter Eric "Benny" Bloom in 2011.
In 2012, Lettuce released Fly. The album featured an extended reading of War's classic "Slipping Into Darkness," and offered a moving and sophisticated tribute to the legendary New Orleans arranger and composer Zigaboo Modeliste entitled "Ziggawatt." Another track, "Jack Flask," illustrated on vinyl what the band had been exploring live for some time: an emergent post-psychedelic influence. Lettuce played with the Soul Rebels Brass Band on Jam Cruise 2013 and eventually re-entered the recording studio with co-producer/engineer Joel Hamilton. They brought in Ross as a second trumpeter. Crush featured a guest vocal appearance from Tedeschi Trucks Band's Alecia Chakour on a wild update of Bobbie Gentry's "He Made a Woman Out of Me," offering the band's first recorded nod to EDM. The rest of the set mixed bass-heavy funk and groove jazz, hip-hop beats, and guitar- and keyboard-heavy psychedelia. Crush was released in November of 2015 and hit the top spot on U.S. jazz album charts. A year later, a seven-track EP of new tracks and Crush session B-sides was issued. Mt. Crushmore featured Alecia Chakour on "The Love You Left Behind." Recorded live at the 2016 Catskill Chill in Lakewood, Pennsylvania, the 2017 concert LP Witches Stew celebrated the works of Miles Davis. In 2019, the band released their eclectic sixth studio long-player, Elevate, which featured guest spots from Marcus King and Nigel Hall. The set was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Contemporary Instrumental album. The Russ Elevado-produced Resonate arrived in 2020. ~ Thom Jurek