Aptly named The Long Hustle, this second album from Soul Project comes four long hustling years after their critically acclaimed first album, Music for Movers & Shakers. In that time they’ve become a fixture on Frenchmen Street at the Blue Nile and Cafe Negril and have become known for their high-energy shows and tight ensemble.
For The Long Hustle they’ve mixed elements of jazz, funk, soul, blues, reggae and gospel to create an album with many facets under a cohesive groove. It starts with the Wolfman-esque “What We Got,” which pulls an interesting sleight of hand when it morphs briefly into a traditional brass band segment near the end. There are a couple fun takes on familiar tunes such as a reggae “Down by the Riverside” with rap verses and a funky version of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” with a second line rhythm in the midst of things. Jon Cristian Duque, lead vocalist and guitarist, seems to have done most of the savvy, genre-conscious arranging. It’s unclear which tunes are originals. It would have been nice to have song credits listed, but I know for sure that saxophonist David Ludman composed the funk-fusion “Blue Snail” and keyboardist Jeremy Habegger composed the album’s live slow-burn closer “Gsus.”
All in all it’s a solid, well-produced album from a really tight band.
—Stacey Leigh Bridewell