Foreign Exchange Music recording artist/producer Zo! and electronic soul singer/songwriter Sy Smith were invited to perform at Atlanta’s famed Apache Cafe on Cinco de Mayo as part of their Third Street Soul Concert Series. I was not that familiar with either artist but I remembered Sy Smith from a Chris Botti DVD I had watched some years ago and liked what I had seen so I decided to attend the show.
Apache Cafe is a small venue so I was expecting spacing to be tight. The good thing about really small venues is how easy it is to feel connected with the performer(s) and the music, especially if it’s all new to you. Luckily, even though all seats were filled there was enough standing room available.
Atlanta native Jahah kicked of the evening with a short set, setting the mood with his songs “Soul Music” and “I’m Doin’ It.” “Soul Music” echoed the dissatisfaction with the state of music today and hunger for a return to the early days of soul music. It had a familiar groove to it but I couldn’t put my finger on what song it reminded me of. Maybe it’s because it successfully recaptured that ‘70s soul sound.
Zo! and Sy Smith took to the stage shortly after that with a tight 4-piece unit. I had expected to see an electric bassist but apparently Sy was playing the bass synth for the show (and she can groove!). Zo’s keyboarding skills were also impressive. Their set was composed of a mix of songs from Zo and Sy’s catalogues. Highlights included “Nights” from Fast and Curious, and “Greater Than the Sun,” a song Zo! originally recorded with Phonte of the Foreign Exchange for his Sunstorm record. They took the crowd to church with their performance of “Greatest Weapon of All Time,” with Sy having the crowd join her singing “I believe it, I receive it” midway though the song.
Sy and Zo! felt very comfortable with the audience and looked like they were having a lot of fun on stage. At one point in the evening, Sy used a Barry White-type patch on her vocoder to introduce Atlanta singer-songwriter Anthony David to the stage. It caught me a little off guard because it sounded like Alan Almond from WNIC radio in Detroit was on the mic. Hat’s off to the engineers at Novation for making the vocoder sound that convincing. Anthony David joined them to perform a cover of Barry White’s “Playing Your Game.” Anthony David is most known for some songs he wrote with India.Arie for the Acoustic Soul album. Near the end of their set, they covered “Messages from the Stars” by the Rah Band and took the opportunity to jam out some other early house music hits. That one got everyone moving. The crowd was very engaged throughout the night and at the end gave Zo! and Sy a standing ovation for their performance.
I decided to support the artists and picked up a copy of Fast and Curious after they finished. Check out one of my favorites, “Ooh To My Aah.”
– Submitted by Akrofi Koram, Hardware Specialist