TGRIOnline.com reviews N’Dambi and Zo! Dec. 10th Show at Black Cat, Washington DC

Source: True Genius Requires Insanity · By Marcus Dowling

On paper, a night featuring heralded underground soul songstress N’Dambi and local DC cause celebre with national trending aspirations Zo! (government name Lorenzo Ferguson) sounds like a recipe for success. The two artists represent the twin hopes for traditional rhythm and blues style in the 21st century. N’Dambi, a former backup singer for Erykah Badu, carries forth the Nona Hendryx meets Nina Simone style artistry of her mentor, music as art, art as music, a funky melange of rock and soul. Zo!, alongside his Foreign Exchange Records supported “Sunstorm All Stars” supporting cast is a producer, composer and songwriter par excellence, a little bit of Isaac Hayes, a little bit of Smokey Robinson, with a spoonful of Ramsey Lewis tossed in for good measure, a feel good sultry blend of adult contemporary music. He’s not concerned with popping bottles, he’s concerned with getting deeper into the heart of the matter. However, on this night in Washington, DC, what was drawn up on paper, failed to materialize, as a night with the best of intentions fell short of their destination.

This is not to say that it was a night that was without spellbinding performances. Zo and his Sunstorm All Stars are the best live act in soul music today. Having witnessed their live show twice this year, it’s easily the best ticket in the genre. It has everything you’d expect from the more mainstream side of R & B, just not wrapped in a broadcloth of tawdry behavior. This is classic music by extremely talented musicians who know what that means. Lead single from Zo’s latest album Sunstorm, “This Could Be The Night” is a sensual jam with a George Benson swing, meaning that for more modern ears, it recalls Montell Jordan’s “Get It On Tonight,” in that it’s grown and sexy without being debased. The set features the ever dapper Ferguson behind a dual decker keyboard and organ, a consummate band leader, leading his charges through a tightly produced set that highlights exquisite artistry. Though Monica Blaire was not present, Deborah Bond’s take on the 11 minute suite “Make Love To Me” was absolutely magical. The song is a moody jazz winner, allowing for a virtuoso female vocalist to improvise and reach an orgasmic peak under the blanket of restrained elegance. If not aware, it is the year’s finest soul performance, and absolutely worthy of consideration for achievement.

This is not to say that the performance by the Grammy nominated N’Dambi was by any means without merit. She’s a toned statuesque rock star with great presence and a glorious red dyed afro/mohawk. Her album Pink Elephant is a heartfelt, earnest and well meaning melancholy burner of a soul record. Owing a great deal more to a bohemian aesthetic than the uptown swing of Ferguson, the performance was not entirely well received by a crowd who had been inspired to move, groove, get turned on and turned out by the Sunstorm All-Stars. If she followed a more muted performer, the likelihood of an entire room being captivated by her would have occurred, however this was not the case. Opener “L.I.E.,” a tale of a cheating male who travels to his lady loves along both ends of the thoroughfare is excellent, as was the single most responsible for Pink Elephant’s success, “Can’t Hardly Wait.” In abiding by a performance standard that involves a loose band performance, and an insistence upon intimate discussion, for the N’Dambi loyalist, it was an ideal environment. However, if looking to be blown away by a performance, that would appear to not be her strongest suit as a live artist. Adopting some of the more captivating aspects of the live performance of her mentor Ms. Badu is an absolute necessity.

Overall, this was a phenomenal evening of diverse styles of soul music. However, in slotting the honed and crafted Sunstorm All-Stars in front of the thinking woman’s sensual bohemain jam session of N’Dambi, the night was a study in styles instead of a fully realized total night of  complete entertainment.

Textura Reviews ‘SunStorm’

Source: Textura · By Ron Schepper

Listening to Zo!’s SunStorm is much like taking a bite out of a Proustian madelaine. After just a few minutes of exposure, a veritable floodgate of memories and associations appears: Songs in the Key of Life, Atlantic Starr, Soul Train, Breezin’, Deodato, ’70s Philly Soul, Donny Hathaway–you get the idea. All such associations might suggest that SunStorm is thus a retrograde or ‘old-school’ recording, but I’d prefer to call it timeless. Music of such quietly celebratory sincerity and soulfulness never goes out of style and if anything we could do with a whole lot more of it. Hip-hop is part of SunStorm’s stylistic mix but the album’s primary focus is soul music of the delectably funky and sexy kind (sometimes directly so, as in the love jam “Make Love 2 Me,” which–consistent with its make-out vibe–unspools for ten oh-so-amorous minutes).

Zo! isn’t, by the way, a vocalist but Detroit-area born, DC-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Lorenzo Ferguson, who contributed to The Foreign Exchange’s recent Leave It All Behind. Consequently, he’s the man behind the songs themselves along with their rich, finely crafted arrangements, while members of the Foreign Exchange Music family (Darien Brockington, Carlitta Durand, YahZarah, and Phonte, among others) are responsible for the lush vocals and harmonies that grace all but one of the album’s dozen songs (the lush, flute-driven instrumental “For Leslie”).

The opener “Greater Than The Sun” establishes the uplifting vibe when elegant pianisms lead into Phonte’s early morning ruminations and a swaying hip-hop groove. Carlitta Durand and Phonte pair up for the romantic duet “Say How You Feel,” Sy Smith elevates the strings-laden ’70s soul of “Greatest Weapon Of All Time” with a silken vocal that nicely complements the breeziness of the tune’s swing, Rapper Big Pooh drops rhymes alongside the vocalisms of Eric Roberson and Darien Brockington during the breezy two-stepper “This Could Be The Night,” and YahZarah takes the lead on the labryinthine title track, where the crisp soul-funk of the verses is offset by male shout-outs and Moog synthesizer patterns. With the spotlight on Phonte’s airy vocal harmonies, piano, trumpet, and Latin percussion, “Flight Of The Blackbyrd” pays homage to the kind of ’70s smooth jazz-fusion one associates with George Duke and Bob James. Much praise to Zo! and The Foreign Exchange crew for giving us another positive and community-spirited recording refreshingly free of misogyny and hate.

‘SunStorm’ Press/Reviews


I have put together a collection of SunStorm reviews via news publications and all things net… I am really excited with the way the album has gotten out here this time around. This is an entry that I will continue to update as I come upon more links. If you happen to see something that I have missed… feel free to let me know about it

YahZarah’s “The Ballad of Purple St. James” receives a 4.5 of 5 Stars from AllMusic.com… “Shadow” is a “Track Pick!!”


Purchase The Ballad of Purple St. James here

As reviewed by Andy Kellman

Original Article


YahZarah’s fourth album could be heard as the third part of a trilogy that began with 
the Foreign Exchange‘s Leave It All Behind (2008) and continued with Nicolay’s City Lights, Vol. 2 (2009). Like those earlier albums, The Ballad of Purple St. James is driven by Nicolay and Phonte and involves input from members of the extended FE family, as well as Raphael Saadiq and Marsha Ambrosius. YahZarah had worked on and off with the duo for several years, but never in a concentrated burst like this. The album allows the singer and songwriter to flash her vocal and thematic flexibility in ways her previous albums did not. Most salient is “Why Dontcha Call Me No More,” a gracefully hurtling kiss-off. It could be covered by No Doubt and taken to the Top Ten, but it’s probable that the song would lose some of its bite. YahZarah, whose voice here resembles that of Gwen Stefani, albeit with none of the cutesiness, delivers one of the most commanding scorned-lover performances in recent memory. At the point where an ad-lib or something innocuous is expected, just as handclaps and “whoa-oh”s enter, she slips in an additional verse that begins with “I hope you have a little girl, and she’s the apple of your eye” — uh-oh — and ends with “I hope somebody makes her cry” and a vaguely brainsick laugh. There are other moments when the singer’s magnetic forthrightness is on display, as on the pulsing and intense “The Lie” (“If you gotta go through hell with somebody, why won’t you do it with me?”) and the prime Neptunes/Kelis-like “Change Your Mind” (“I can turn your world around in a heartbeat, and bring you to your knees again”). The more sensitive songs, including a gliding duet with Darien Brockington, a devotional ballad resembling a Teena Marie session in Memphis, and a gleaming Afrofuturist anthem, are just as affecting.

 

‘…just visiting too’ Has Been Making Its Rounds…

I decided to put this list of sites and blogs together mainly for my mother so that she has everything about the album in one spot. Please feel free to add to the list, or hit me up and let me know of any more …just visiting too sightings…

2 Dope Boyz

Blind I

Confessions Of A Collector

The Couch Sessions

Enriched and Focused

Fatlace

Getback Army

Grown Folks Music

Indy Week Blogs

The Inner Soul

JeanelleSaitQuoi

Jenny Marie PR

Kevin Nottingham

Mikey McFly

Moovmnt.com

Nah Right

OkayPlayer

Potholes In My Blog

Put Me On It

The Real Frequency

Shook Mag

The Smoking Section

So So Sef

Soul Afrodisiac

SoulBounce.com