New Show Dates: Zo! + Sy Smith and The Foreign Exchange (DET, Memphis, StL, Indy, LA, SF, Phoenix)

Zo! + Sy Smith will be performing together in…

Sept. 30th, 2012: Indianapolis, IN @ New Orleans On The Avenue – 4pm (Buy Tickets)

Zo! will be on keys for The Foreign Exchange in…

Oct. 19th, 2012: Los Angeles, CA @ Key Club – 9pm (Buy Tickets)

Oct. 20th, 2012: San Francisco, CA @ Mezzanine – 9pm (Buy Tickets)

Oct. 23rd, 2012: Phoenix, AZ @ Monarch Theatre – 8pm (Buy Tickets)

Quick Story… Y’all Know I Have Plenty: Playing at Fred Smoot’s Wedding Reception…

Music always has a way of landing me in some interesting and sometimes comedic situations. This one took place in September of 2009… My man Asheru knew a kat who had a direct link to a couple of the Washington Redskins players and wanted to know if he could put a band together to play at cornerback Fred Smoot’s wedding reception – No problem. Ash ended up putting a couple of calls in to members of the ELs crew, including myself on keys, Omar Hunter on bass and Chris “Biscuit” Bynum on drums. We all rolled down to Falls Church, VA to meet up at Fred Smoot’s house and knock the gig out. I arrived to the house first, loaded my equipment in through the garage and headed down into the basement where a long table was set up for guests to eat along with the catered food and drinks all set up along the wall in preparation for the reception itself. Omar, Biscuit, and Asheru rolled in not too long after I did and set their equipment up in the space next to my board. Now, before I move along any further, let’s think about this… It was already random as hell to have received the call to play at Fred Smoot’s wedding reception in the FIRST place so I had no idea what to expect. My impression of him like many other sports fans who would tune in to SportsCenter fairly regularly in the morning, was that he was a pretty solid cornerback who ran his mouth a little bit – yet he always seemed like he was having fun with it. I mean, shit… nowadays, it’s almost like, what athlete doesn’t run their mouth anymore? But then again, those same kats who are all extra and over the top on the field, usually up being the most  down-to-earth and “real” kats off of it. I was pretty interested to see if this held true for Smoot as well. Regardless, we were gonna make this joint fun because the gig was so… I don’t know…. vague and different.

We took our time setting up our equipment because the wedding (which was to take place upstairs on the main floor) had not begun yet. From the looks of things, it wasn’t close to start time either….. Or so we thought. As we were slowly plugging cords into amps and power strips while cracking jokes and figuring out the reception’s food situation, a young lady whom I assumed was the wedding coordinator came downstairs. She walked straight up to me and asked, “Excuse me… But can you play “Here Comes the Bride”, or something as the bride walks down the aisle?”

Although I was totally unprepared for that request being as though we were there to play at the RECEPTION, I was cool about it and responded, “Yeah, I can do that… Let me figure it back out for a couple of minutes to work the kinks out before I actually play it.”

Coordinator: “Oh no… She’s walking down the aisle right NOW.”

Me: *crickets*………… “OH.”

I sat down at the keyboard, turned the volume up so that those attending the wedding ceremony upstairs could hear me and proceeded to play… I’m sorry, I mean work through a slow version of “Here Comes the Bride” all while O and Biscuit were watching me….. and laughing, of course. It’s a pretty simple song, but I had the “heavy concentration face” on as I didn’t want to earn a permanent place in the Smoot Wedding memory annals as the piano player who couldn’t bring the bride down the aisle worth a shit.

I actually got through the bride’s introduction unscathed and we just kinda waited around quietly for the actual wedding ceremony to wrap up. Once it did, everyone in attendance began to filter downstairs to the basement where the reception was being held. Folks took pictures, shared small talk and we were all finally able to get up and get a plate of food. I looked around and saw a few Redskin players that I recognized and there was another kat in attendance whose face looked familiar as well, but I knew he didn’t play football. We discovered it was vocalist, Dave Hollister. Dope! We also found out that Fred wanted him to do a song with us… Well shit, even better… Let’s run it!


The song that Brotha Smoot wanted Dave Hollister to sing with us…….. At his wedding…….. was….

BlackStreet’s “Before I Let You Go.”

*mo crickets*

“Now uhhh, ok uhhh..seee uhhhh…. Lemmeh tehya som’n!!” © Charles Barkley

Pretty much any other time, this song choice would make sense. I mean, outside of “No Diggity” and “Don’t Leave Me”, “Before I Let You Go” is still one of BlackStreet’s best known jams… PLUS, Dave sang the lead on the original recording, so shit…. There it is, the perfect song choice!

*sigh*…Nah man.

I can still hear Biscuit’s response when I told he and Omar what they wanted us to play. He said, “Dogg, at a WEDDING??!” None of us wanted to hit the audience with the “break up song” 30 minutes after Mr. & Mrs. Smoot exchanged vows! I mean, ok…. let me put it to you like this. Let’s take,  Earth, Wind & Fire’s “After The Love Is Gone” for instance. As pretty sounding as that song is, I think it’s safe to say that you’ll never hear that shit as a couple’s “first dance at the wedding” choice. But hey… If folks wanna begin a clean slate of matrimony with, “Baby I’ve been thinkin’, there’s something’s goin’ wrong ‘cuz you’ve got an attitude, and you’re not in the mood…. like ya used to”, be my guest. Who am I to argue with what the groom wants played?! Maybe the joint had a deeper meaning than we all thought… I didn’t know, nor did I care to find out. So we talked it over with Dave in regards to how we would present the song format-wise, Omar and I quickly figured out the chords, changes, etc… And we pulled the song off. Now, if I remember correctly, people responded to it pretty well. I was actually bracing myself to get a puzzled response similar to the one Randy Watson received at the “Miss Black Awareness Pageant”. But all jokes aside, Fred Smoot was a good dude, definitely a lot more laid-back and humble than he used to portray himself in the media. After playing for a couple of hours, we ended up leaving that gig with some satisfied wedding attendees, full stomachs, our checks, and more helluva stories for the library…

Maaan, The First Time I Heard: “Climax” Slum Village

I have PLENTY of musical Dilla memories, but the one that probably sticks out the most is when I first heard Slum Village’s “Climax” from their album, Fantastic Vol. 2. So, let’s rewind back to the summer of 2000… My 12-year baseball career had just come to an end and I only had two classes remaining in order to graduate from Western Kentucky University. I was back home in Michigan for part of the summer and buying SV’s Fantastic Vol. 2 album was at the TOP of my to-do list at the time. I’m sure I probably looked through the latest issue of The Source magazine for an official release date, marked it down and made sure that when that Tuesday arrived, I was at the nearest music store, front and center at the cash register with a copy in my hand ready to purchase…

Already a huge SV fan off of tracks like “I Don’t Know”, “2U4U”, “Fantastic”, “The Look Of Love” and “Players” (later on, I’ll have to share that story as well), I was MORE THAN ready for a full-length album of theirs to be released. The date finally came… Tuesday, June 13, 2000. It was nice outside because I can remember driving over to Sam Goody with all of my windows down. Now, let’s also keep in mind that I had a couple of 12″ subs in the trunk of my car as well (I had them put in because of yet ANOTHER DIlla-produced track… A Tribe Called Quest’s “Find A Way”). I arrived at the spot, ran in, found and purchased the Slum CD, got back into the car and tore away the wrapping with my trusty “EZ-CD opener” they used to give us at the beginning of each college year and popped the album in the player. After the intro, “Conant Gardens” hit me over the head with a stand out bass riff that was perfectly complimented by those signature hard ass Jay Dee drums that SNAPPED, followed by “I Don’t Know” and “Jealousy”…… and then after a brief phone skit starring Jay Dee and a young lady, the phone convo broke away very quickly right into into Dilla saying,

“You ain’t gotta play hard to get….. I know you….”

The beat dropped in with this eerie, yet pretty atmospheric filtered out chords while the first clap hit on the “know”…..By this time I was already completely captivated by the first half of the beat… And then it happened….. I wasn’t ready for it at all. The first two notes of that thick bassline pushed through my subwoofers and my mind was absolutely blown and all I could manage to get out was, “YOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” …And JUST when I didn’t think it couldn’t get any better after Dilla’s verse…… The hook came in. Tina Marie Glover a/k/a Airasoul came in with….

“I want you right heeeeere in my worrrrrld……

…..beeeein’ witchu all alone, is like a dreeeam COME true, true, true….”

But that wasn’t the wild shit…. The WILD shit was, underneath her vocals they scratched in the “Space Intro” joint by Steve Miller Band, which at the time I had recently picked that same SMB album up in a dollar bin at a store in Nashville. I heard that piece and I LOST it, literally. With all of those contributing factors coming together at once, I tell NO lie… I almost ran myself off of the road……. IN MY OWN NEIGHBORHOOD. I wasn’t paying attention to anything but the elements that made up this excellence of a song and almost ended up in somebody’s ditch….Thank you, SV for damn near raising my car insurance in 2000.

Who would have known that I would be in the Barak Studios working with these kats less than three years later. They don’t know this story either… lol

Slum Village – “Climax” (Video)

“Maaan, the first time I heard…” is a series of blog entires I’ll be putting together where, you guessed it… I recall the first time I placed my ears on specific songs or albums. This should be fun as well as a test in how effective this daily dose of gingko biloba is that I ingest with my ‘bruffus’…