Too Many Zooz / The Marble Factory, Bristol | 10th of May

Too Many Zooz / The Marble Factory, Bristol | 10th of May

David “King of Sludge” Parks on drums and percussion.

Leo Pellegrino on baritone sax.

Matt Doe on trumpet. (And keys. Once).

Now then, Too Many Zooz is a kooky expression isn’t it? If someone pointed a finger or a trumpet at me and said that in a semi accusatory tone I’d go right ahead and assume I was displaying an excess of something I don’t even know. Well those three names up there and the instruments next to them are Too Many Zooz. Fittingly, that implacable abundance is precisely what you get from their high octane showings. I’m not even sure how to write about them.

The trio’s reasonable fame was founded on the streets and subways of New York City, where they perform(ed) frenetic Latin jazz crossed with punchy house rhythms. (Spotify describes them as a ‘busking phenomenon’). On a balmy Thursday night their sound in all its absurd glory landed at Bristol’s ‘The Marble Factory’, where they dominated the stage, where they ducked, dived, jived and thrived with giddying energy. Admittedly, this comes mainly through Pellegrino, whose body – like his playing – is tireless. The former shadows the latter, often comically so – his liquidy legs and (perhaps too rife) hip thrusts add an almost parodic element to the music. “Doe” too plays his trumpet with stupendous skill, but he commands the crowd in a different way: by utilising that very skill to its highest…with his risings, his drops, his turns to face us. Besides just the once (when he dictated our claps and tossed his goggles to some grateful hands), the “King of Sludge” remains at stage rear, marching on the spot or in smart little circles, his bass drum before him with all its little add-ons, his rhythm with all its little nuances. It seems outrageous to say it but the band relies on a minimalist rooting – this is what allowed them to weave the subterranean pathways of the Big Apple and make a name for themselves. That said, the Zooz’ minimalist roots don’t neglect funky showmanship.

Doe and Pellegrino weave and dip in out of each other’s lead, backed always by bass and cowbell/plastic clicks from Parks. At points those trumpet risings, those incisive notes – they cut between and atop the sax to summon EDM like drops and carnivalesque crescendos. Afro-Cuban hip-hop and swing and ceaseless brass mastery. Heaps of all this and more.

After taking to The Marble stage they performed forty minutes’ solid music; everytime they threatened to stop one of the aficionados riffed and continued; my untuned mind detected perhaps 4 seconds of relative quiet, which is just about long enough for a towel down and the briefest of swigs. Now and then, via odd breathing techniques or otherwise, their instruments let out what sound like sample effects, comic, cartoon clangs and the likes. Pellegrino’s altissimo notes contribute hugely to this. It helps conjure a circus like frenzy in the crowd. Circus probably isn’t a bad word. The urban circus of NYC subways. Back to that breathing technique — their lungs, honestly…their damn lungs. They must be this pink. I don’t play trumpet or sax but I’m fairly sure it’s no easy feat to do so with such longevity and consistent madness. It was welcomed aptly by the grooving individuals, pairs and parties around me.

Warriors is a song they released this year which features a customary dance rhythm and clever percussion segments. The barisax lends elongated bass to a real feel good affair.

Earlier, Brasshouse Vol 7 No 68, which starts off with an open hi-hat sound beneath a cool drum beat (“Sludge” on a couple of occasions removes the drum from its stand or from his knees to add a feature to it). Then into the climbing scales of the trumpet, the lucid and loose interplay that’s so tricky to describe with any image besides that rhizomatic urban circus, that frenzy.

At one point, Doe put his instrument down and unleashed on the narrow keyboard a super odd but genuinely room-moving rendition of…what? Deep, dark, merging tones that i noted to resemble: a) white noise b) a revving engine and c) a machine gun. Despite this, a quite beautiful sax interlude emerges.

They played a fun jazz rendition of Sean Paul’s Get Busy and also Kings Avenue, which has another cool albeit similar upturn, and saw arms looping through the air.

Subway Gawdz (from their debut feature length album of the same name) contains a high tempo salsa edge with (as per) crisp, sharp percussion.

Too Many Zooz are intriguing, different and fun. Tempo is their fluctuating friend. They play with it, provoke it, hold a self-aware control over it. There is smart craftsmanship to their music, and I’d recommend listening to them for sure. In what mood? There I’m not so clear cut. Its shifts and hooks are apt for many a moment and in many a walk of life, from Brooklyn to Bristol and from Union Square to European orchestra halls.


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