Zo!’s Top Five Moments of 2011 – #2 My First Trips Overseas b/w The Release of ‘…just visiting three’

Performing in Amsterdam • Photo by Sarah Jane Van Beek

I quickly went from having never traveled to Europe… to traveling to Europe three times in the first three months of the year. In January, I went overseas with The Foreign Exchange for our first European Tour as a collective, which covered London, Amsterdam, Paris, Köln, and back to London for a second show. While the tour was extremely tiring and my feet hung off of the ends of ALL of the beds in the hotels, I was very grateful to see the outpouring of love we received in each city. These kats were hyped up to see us and their energy was taken in and transferred right back to them via our shows. We were also fortunate enough to get together with the talented and VERY quick learning drummer UK Laurie Lowe who held us down on stage the entire time we were over there. BIG up…!! I know I’m leaving out a ton of details, so please don’t hesitate to click on each city above to read my write-ups on each date…

In February, I went back over to Paris with DC based, Grammy-nominated artist Kokayi at the Maison des Arts festival playing alongside Jean Grae and Pharoahe Monch… Talk about FUN. We arrived in Paris a day early, so we were able to walk around the city and take our time to really take everything in. This is generally uncommon during multi-city touring where you usually arrive to a city, check-in, soundcheck, get ready fo the show, play the show and get ready to do it all over again the next day. I experienced some excellent food, beer mixed with tequila, as well as a pigeon that decided he needed to initiate me by letting himself loose on my hat and coat. Great… The show itself was crazy… Especially when I was able to see kids start to breakdance on the sides of the thatre. I was looking like, “Wooooooooow, for real?!” Fun, fun times…

I think the most memorable time overseas was the last time I went, in March with Sy Smith – these were actually the FIRST of our “Duo” shows. We had two shows scheduled in Paris at Bizz’Art and London’s famed Jazz Café. But our schedule was pretty interesting. Despite playing the Paris show first, we flew in to London’s Heathrow airport the morning of Thursday, March 3rd where we were picked up by one of the vocalists and taken to our hotel. We had the rest of the day to explore London, or rest before rehearsal began that night with the band. The next morning (the 4th) we took the train to Paris and was greeted by our promoter upon arrival who then walked us to our hotel to check in and gave us a brief tour of the city as well as the venue we were going to be performing in the next night. We had some wine, did an interview, rested up and enjoyed a helluva dinner at a spot across the street from our hotel. The actual day of the show, March 5th… We met up with the Paris band at the venue who we could already hear rehearing our material as we walked in. That crew of musicians was on POINT. I actually remember thinking to myself when I heard the second keyboard player, “Damn, he might know my shit better than ME!” That Paris show was NUTS. Bizz’Art was filled up, the people were into the show from start to finish and showed their appreciation afterward by forming a line to the merch table where we were seated that seemed to never end. I was extremely grateful.

The following morning (Sunday the 6th), we took the train back to London to check back into our hotel and prepare for our first performance at the Jazz Café. After a quick soundcheck and a couple of interviews, we got started that night and had a BALL. Although we didn’t get on stage until late, the London crowd had a lot of energy for us. I can still remember a few kats on the sides of me who were actually “studying” what I was playing… I could tell this, because I would hear them comment or say, “Whooooo!!!” after I would hit a certain series of notes or chords. Now THAT was kinda crazy as I hadn’t experienced that before. We ended the show with an “acoustic” encore, just Sy singing and me on the keys, which gave us the idea to make our going out on the road as a team more permanent – Combined with the love we received in both London and Paris, the Zo! + Sy Smith show became solidified. Now the question is… When can we go BACk overseas?!

                                                                                                       

I’m gonna let ch’all in on a little well-known secret among us artists… Releasing new music NEVER gets old. One of the reasons is because we are always being asked, “So what’s next?” “What are you working on currently?” I had a couple of people ask me “When’s your next album coming out?” just three days after I released SunStorm in 2010. To have your current music, your “baby” see the light of day and watching people react to it in realtime via Twitter, FB, etc. is one helluva reward in itself. This time around, I was able to SEE people’s first time reactions to the new music in the form of a series of …just visiting three listening parties. The first one was the night of its release at a very intimate setting in Washington D.C. at a spot called Tap & Parlour. Right at midnight, while the album was being released online, I got up on the mic to introduce the new material to everyone in attendance and DJ 2-Tone Jones spun it straight through. To see people react to …just visiting three’s song selection, yelling out “SOOOOMEBOOOODY TEEEEELL MEEEEEEE” during the hook for “Everything She Wants” and yelling out “OHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!” when “Playing Your Game, Baby” started…. and ANOTHER “OOOOHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” when Anthony David proceeded to start singing and take ownership of the song. I was sitting in the spot with my laptop open reading reactions to the album and experiencing them all at the same time. That feeling was absolutely priceless… I can’t wait to do it again in 2012.

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