Time Rewind: Zo! + Sy Smith performing “Greatest Weapon Of All Time” in Paris, France (March 5, 2011)

I’ll just start by saying that I love this clip. Rarely do I watch a performance of ours without heavily critiquing it, but this one I can actually sit and enjoy. This entire show was just… FUN. I wish there was more footage available on the net from it. The band that assembled to play with Sy Smith and I that night was incredible, the crowd was ridiculous and showed BIG love after the show. What better way to begin the “Time Rewind” series than with this particular video…. Love to Paris! I’m ready to go back…

Zo! + Sy Smith in Paris… 03.05.11

I’ll start by saying this: I have only been to Paris three times, but in those few visits my adoration for the city increases each time. This past visit and show proved to be one helluva testament to this city’s proper treatment of the artists that come through and play. 

Sy and I were up and out of our London hotel by about 7am to hop on what they called the “tube” (subway train station) at Euston to head one stop northbound on the Victoria Line to King’s Cross, which is where we caught the Eurostar train to Paris. Being as though I purposely stayed up the entire night before, once we found our seats, I remember cracking a couple of jokes here and there……..and then I was OUT. The next thing I remember clearly was stopping in Paris for what turned out to be the quickest two-hour train ride in my entire life. I kind of staggered along and went through the motions while grabbing my bags and walking through the train station. It finally hit me: “Ummm… you MIGHT wanna start looking out for the promoter so you know where the hell y’all are going!” Just as I looked up to see if I noticed a “Sy Smith / Zo” handwritten sign, I noticed someone standing there holding our promo poster! Wow… It was our promoter Manuelle waiting to greet and walk us over to our hotel. When we got there, she checked us in and made sure everything went through without any problems and asked us if we would meet her back down in the lobby to go over the next two days… Impressive. Upon meeting back up, she took us over to the Bizz’art venue so that we were able to check it out. Our posters and advertisements were plastered all over the place. Then she asked the magic question… “Are you hungry?” And to be honest, I wasn’t even that hungry… But dammit, this was Paris… and I wanted something to eat. So I requested just a sandwich of some sort, nothing major… just something small. Manuelle said that she knew of a place right around the corner that would be perfect. We walked over to a small spot around the corner from the venue where the guys working there seemed to know Manuelle fairly well – I saw this as a great thing, meaning they would take care of Sy and I too. With that being said, one of the guys asked me what I wanted and I requested a sandwich. I didn’t know what I was in for… He pointed out a type of beef that he stated was very good… I told him to slice it up!! He then began to list the cheeses they had available… I was so excited that I chose TWO! “Yes! Put mozzarella AND parmesan cheese on there!” The next thing I knew, he started talking about one of my weakness foods… Sun-dried tomatoes. My excitement ALMOST got the best of me as I felt like cussing dude out while ordering… 

“YES! Shit!! Put some damn sun-dried tomatoes on that bitch!!”  

…But I held back and just decided to order them in a civilized fashion. What I took back to the hotel with me was too worthy of being called just a sandwich… That joint was a SAMMICH. I grabbed some cheddar and chives chips, me and Sy split a bottle of red wine at the hotel and lunch was served.  …Pardon the bite, taking the picture was SECOND on the priority list next to my wanting to take care of the food.

After completing an interview, we had good cry laugh listening to a Bizzy Bone interview that my boy Asylum 7 and I used to listen to and quote rather regularly. After that, the rest of the day was ours to do whatever with. So later on that night, we grabbed dinner at a spot right across the street from the hotel called Le Chateau Landon. Our waiter looked like a French Mario Brother… Dude had the handlebar mustache and everything. For me, he recommended the ribeye steak, which I ordered with a pepper sauce, cheese sauce, and a small salad. ALL of it was good. I even ate some of the fish off of Sy’s plate and knocked out some those fries…

The day of the show began with me going downstairs into the hotel lobby and taking advantage of its free breakfast, which included… Croissants!!! I went down there and took care of about 4-5 of them and being that my sleep schedule in Europe is always ridiculously off, I went to bed after my meal and ended up waking up late to meet Manuelle and Sy for lunch at 1pm. I got myself together in record time after receiving the “where you at” call from Sy at about 1:15 or so. After rushing down to the lobby, Manuelle walked us to a spot on the way to the venue where she treated us to wine and some great food. I had a dish that combined whitefish with mashed potatoes, which I had NEVER seen before… The fish was mashed in WITH the potatoes with peppercorns on top of it, it was kinda crazy… but tasted wonderful. From there we walked over to Bizz’art where we were to meet up with the musicians and get a rehearsal in with them before the show. Now, I had already heard great things about these kats from N’Dambi and her manager, but to hear how good they sounded at that rehearsal as well as witnessing their preparation… I was thoroughly impressed. Kats had iPads with their charts in them, the keyboard player had all of the sounds he was gonna use for each song pre-programmed in his laptop. The drummer took the time to make sequences of EACH SONG just in case we wanted to have a backing track to play over. It is rare to find players who get this far into playing your work. It was just as impressive as it was appreciated by Sy and myself. After running through our set with the fellas, we ventured back to the hotel to change and get ready to give Paris more than their money’s worth of a show. …And then I got a knock on my door…. It was Sy. She looked a bit distraught as she explained to me that she just received word that she lost a good friend of hers who just happened to be Jeff “Fuzzy” Young lead singer of the group Something For the People (“My Love is the Shhh”)… So from that moment on, our two shows were to be a dedication to his life and music. The way that Sy was able to take her grieving and transform it into positive energy used to perform without a hitch was a testament to her talent and extreme professionalism… And THIS is yet another reason why I will forever mess with some damn Sy Smith.

Performance-wise, the show was excellent, particularly for it being our first time performing as a ‘duo.’ We opened with “Nights Over Egypt” and the night continued to improve and progress from there. After absolutely going IN on Sy’s music, we started in on some joints from SunStorm and …just visiting too – Including a piano intro of “Greater Than the Sun,’ which rolled directly into “Greatest Weapon Of All Time.” We were joined on stage by The Roots’ keyboardist Ray Angry during “MakeLuv2Me” which turned out to be One of my favorite moments of the show came when we played “Flight of the Blackbyrd.” Excellent times… The Paris crowd NEVER disappoints as they were once again enthusiastic during the show and excited to meet with us after its completion. Matter of fact, they damn near bought up all of our merchandise leaving us with a limited supply for the next day in London! My only question is… So WHEN CAN WE COME BACK?!

The Foreign Exchange in Europe: Day 4 – Paris

I was completely unable to get any type of sleep on the Jr. twin beds at the Backstage Hotel, so I ended up waking up at about 6am and just staying up to take advantage of the lovely free wi-fi provided by the hotel. I went down to the lobby area to put some breakfast together, which was cool because if you were “with the band” you were allowed to just go into the kitchen and help ya damn self straight outta the refrigerator. Talk about making yourself feel at home… Lobby call was not too long after that, so I gathered my bags and carried them down the hotel’s steep, narrow ass steps and grabbed a seat in the lobby to wait. Now allow me to explain something real quick… when traveling with nine people at a time with luggage, it is ALWAYS an adventure. “Say it with me one time” © Dilla… Ad-ven-ture. And today was no exception…

The rental car place in Amsterdam would not allow us to rent a second car due to some credit card issue. Ok, cool… Let’s get someone else out whose card matched their driver’s license information or whatever the problem is so we can all roll out. NO, not that easy. We went through this process with a couple different people before finally being able to find someone whose information agreed with their system. Let’s keep in mind that the rental spot was 25 minutes away from the hotel. So every time we had to try a new person’s card, there was another 25-minute commute involved each way AND the place closed at 1pm… See? Adventurous. Anyway, we were finally able to get our hands on the two cars and were Paris-bound at about 2pm, which means we should make it to the city at around 6/6:30pm, hit sound check, check in to the hotel, play the show, right? …Now what word did I ask you to remember earlier?
Once again, due to my lack of sleeping in the kid sized bed at the hotel, I was pretty much DONE in the car ride to Paris. I woke up when we stopped for food, but other than that it was pretty much a wrap for me in the front seat of that car. This means that the majority of the drive was nonexistent… But I do know this, the last time I woke up, the clock read 7:45pm and we were in some THICK traffic. I’m talking about the opening scene of Office Space-type of traffic. It was then that I finally realized, “Oh shit… I’m in Paris!” I immediately pulled my camera out and started snapping pictures from the car. I wasn’t sure what time the show was, but I thought we were still in pretty good shape despite the fact that we lost a couple of hours as a direct result of the city’s bumper-to-bumper issues. This wasn’t the case either. We were gonna have to get into serious rush mode as soon as the car came to a complete stop… Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of this until the car came to a complete stop. lol
Upon our arrival, I could see the line of people waiting to get into the venue. The good thing was they looked pretty excited to see us pull up. But we had to take everything we had into the spot because the traffic set us so far back time-wise that we were only allotted enough time to do a quick line check, change clothes, and play the show. So we rushed through a soundcheck, changed clothes (I snacked on a croissant or two backstage in the meantime, which were the BEST I’ve ever had in my life… LAWD!!), and were prepared to hit the stage…
Now when I tell y’all that the Paris crowd was hype as hell…. MAN. From start to finish, they were READY for a show and honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever played in front of a crowd that enthusiastic before. They were into it from the minute we set foot on the stage… Dancing, screaming, chanting, yelling our names out all during the show… It was beyond crazy. At one point in the show, they had a “Sy Smeet!! Sy Smeet!! Sy Smeet!!” chant going (That’s my horrible attempt at a French accent saying “Sy Smith” for those of you who may be a bit lost there). Despite being pressed for time, the crowd hung with us through every single song.. and they partied. We were called back out after the show for an encore and we gave them “Crazy You” off of the …just visiting too album just so they could have their fair share of some “Sy Smeet.” But then, they were even more excited when we walked back out into the crowd after the show to greet everyone. It was an excellent feeling once again to be a witness to those whose lives you have touched with music, there aren’t any words to describe what I was feeling while talking with the Paris crowd.
While the show was an absolute success, what is the word that we cannot escape while on the road? Ahhh, yes… of course – Adventure. Someone told us that the hotel was “only 150 meters” from the venue. Of course after hearing that and the fact that there was no parking available around the hotel, we all decided to walk it on over to the hotel. Maaaaan, about a mile and a half later with luggage and a steady rain in our faces, we finally made it to our destination! At least the hotel had free wi-fi once we got there, along with room keys that were attached to damn door handles. What a night… Well, no sleep tonight and it’s off to Germany!

The Foreign Exchange In Europe: Day 1/2 – London

Call me what you want… but when I went in to the school to teach today, I was definitely more focused on how my first shows and performances in Europe were gonna go moreso than the activities occurring in my own classroom – I can’t lie. I would catch myself zoning out rather regularly throughout the workday, only because I was so anxious to not only see what it was like in the U.K., but I wanted to check out London’s response to our music and actually be able to shake hands with everyone and thank them for supporting for all these years. So you can imagine how quickly I rushed outta that school when 3:30pm came around so that I could get some last minute running around done before finally getting on the road to Dulles Airport. I made sure to pack half of a library, iPod, and all other essentials to keep me busy for the upcoming 7-hour plane ride to Heathrow. I even made sure to grab a nice skrong draink to down fairly quickly to help with the napping process. Met up with our bass player, Kush in the terminal not too long before boarding the plane and got it moving to our gate. Apparently the Strong Island Iced Tea that I had assisted me in my quest for sleep because the entire plane ride over, I attempted to watch the movie “Wall Street 2” and could NOT make it through the entire thing… shameful considering the fact that I had over seven hours to do so. I would wake up to rolling credits, rewind it…. doze off again and wake up to another part in the movie that was completely unfamiliar looking to me. COme to think of it, I didn’t even stay awake long enough to catch the take-off. When I woke up the first time, I thought we were still taxiing on the damn runway… until I leaned forward to look out of a window and found out that this was NOT the case. By that time we were 30,000 feet in the air pretty much set at our cruising altitude. While the plane ride wasn’t too bad at all (I think my much needed sleep played a significant part in that as well), the length of my legs require my upgrading the seat on the return flight, so uh-ruh… I’ll be doing that for next week. Once we arrived, of course we had to fill out our “landing card” before making our way through UK customs. Passports and work permits were presented, and we were good to go. We walked down to baggage REclaim as they call it and picked up our bags, connected with our people and were out. I didn’t know what to expect once I arrived in London. The first thing I noticed was the consistent rain… It wasn’t pouring, but it was certainly dreary as all hell. This didn’t stop me from having my camera out at all times snapping pictures of any and ALL things on the drive to the hotel. Once we arrived at the hotel and got up to the room, I walked in and saw the size of the beds… Lawd.

When I laid stomach-down on the bed to connect my laptop to the net, even with me positioning myself diagonally my feet were STILL on the wall. lol The free wi-fi was non-existent at the Thistle Hotel as I had to kick out £9.99 ($15.55) for just 24 hours of low-speed net access. I love it.

I went on a food mission that didn’t take me far at all as I was on foot and the rain had picked up pretty significantly by this time. I ventured across the street to a hole-in-the-wall spot and got a simple chicken sandwich and chips. The sandwich consisted of… well… a grilled chicken patty on a bun. Therefore, you will find NO pics of this plate on the net as I had to doctor it up to the point that I damn near remade the thing. Had to throw that meal down pretty quickly in order to make it to soundcheck/rehearsal on time as we had to run the entire set with a new drummer for the tour, Laurie Lowe… Our regular drummer, Biscuit was unable to make the trip with us this time. We made it up to Cargo, which looked like a nice spot to me… and more importantly, once soundcheck started the soundman got our levels right and had us sounding GOOD together. So at this point, I was even MORE hyped up than before for the show to begin. We hurried back to the room for a QUICK turnaround of about 30 minutes, just enough time for a quick shower and a change of clothes. It was at this very moment that I realized I would have to supply myself with my own washcloths upon returning to Europe because there aren’t any in the hotel rooms. I used a hand towel to wash up with… Just a side note. lol

We rode back to the Cargo and found out that we had to walk through the crowd to get to the dressing room… Welp! Ok… The funny thing is, I looked up and a flashlight ended up in MY hand to lead the crew through this packed up ass, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. So I’m stumbling through people in order to clear the way for the crew, with a flashlight in hand looking like damn security of the first world. I could hear a couple people calling out our individual names as they gradually started to realize who was pushing their way through them. I even heard a few people say, “Zo!” …and others say, “Zo?” as I walked by them.
At the start of the show, I could already tell it was gonna be a night for the books. London was READY… We came out, and they were into the show from start to finish… From crowd response and participation to knowing all the words to the songs… they were ready to go. The personal highlight of the night for me on stage was the response I heard from Phonte simply saying, “I’ve got my man Zo on the keys.” The people got LOUD… The reaction caught me COMPLETELY off guard… so much to the point that I had to STOP playing the keyboard and just kinda stand there looking extra surprised. I couldn’t do anything but look at my kats on stage and say simply, “Wooooow.” Actually, someone asked me later on, “Why did you look so surprised when the crowd cheered for you?” Maaaaan, look. I haven’t heard a reception like that outside of Detroit and D.C. Very rewarding and humbling experience. Then to be able to walk right back out into the crowd after the show to take pictures, shake hands, sign albums, and greet everyone who has been following FE’s music and some who have been following my music for years was a huge bonus for me. Overall, the show was the perfect opening show for the European Tour run. Playing to a sold-out, hyped up crowd in a spot that I have never been before. Sounds pretty damn great to me.

AFTER the show, I was in for a not so great surprise as I decided to order the “Jerk Chicken Sandwich” at the venue and upon its arrival, I discovered that it was actually grilled chicken cutlets with lettuce and some damn chipotle mayo. :-/ Someone took it even further than that and ordered some calamari… I won’t even comment on it. I’ll just show you the picture.
Regardless, one a helluva show in London…… If this is any indication of how the remainder of this tour will be, then I. Can’t. WAIT for more.

Zo! + Sy Smith @ The Jazz Café in London!! – March 6, 2011

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be co-headlining the Jazz Café in London on March 6th, 2011 with one of my favorite people… the immensely talented Sy Smith. I’m really looking forward to making my Jazz Café debut as I have been told for years that it’s one of the historically rich spots to play in… aaaand my pulse rate spiked as I just typed that.

UK, it looks like I will now see you in January AND in March. Have some good food waiting for me please….!!

The Foreign Exchange Overseas Tour Schedule

Well, I’m happy to announce that not only will I be visiting Europe for the first time in my life, but I’ll be over there playing keys with The Foreign Exchange. The run begins in London, then continues to Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne, while ending in London as well. Check the dates and maybe I’ll see you at a show. In the meantime, I’ll be purchasing a brand new memory card for my camera as I’ll be doing nothing but snapping pictures and getting ready to try all types of FOOD. YES Lawd!!

Thu Jan 6, 2011 at 7:00 PM
soulBEAUTIFUL inc presents · Cargo, London UK
The Foreign Exchange (Phonte + Nicolay) with live band
View Details · BUY TICKETS

Fri Jan 7, 2011 at 7:30 PM
Holland’s Got Soul · Paradiso, Amsterdam NL
The Foreign Exchange (Phonte + Nicolay) with live band
View Details · BUY TICKETS

Sat Jan 8, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Free Your Funk presents · La Bellevilloise, Paris FR
The Foreign Exchange (Phonte + Nicolay) with live band
View Details · BUY TICKETS

Sun Jan 9, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld, Koln DE
The Foreign Exchange (Phonte + Nicolay) with live band
View Details · BUY TICKETS

Wed Jan 12, 2011 at 7:00 PM
soulBEAUTIFUL inc presents · Cargo, London UK
The Foreign Exchange (Phonte + Nicolay) with live band
View Details · BUY TICKETS