The New Cool: Too Many Zooz, Just Enough Rhythm

May 19, 2017

James Brown famously told his band that every instrument in the band was a drum, or at least, had the potential to be used to emphasize the beat rather than or in addition to the melody. The New York trio Too Many Zooz seems to take this philosophy to its logical conclusion.

When I describe the band's music, I keep returning to the phrase "stabbing horns". Comprised of trumpet, sax and drums, you might think an aggressive drummer would provide all the rhythm necessary, but Too Many Zooz shares the responsibility.

David Parks keeps his drumming rudimentary, a marching bass drum slung over his shoulder and a smattering of light percussion attached to the top. Matt Doe's trumpet, sometimes doubled for extra heft, jabs at single notes, pushing into slick little riffs that comprise most of the melody. Leo Pellegrino's baritone sax thumps away in similar fashion, the low end reminding listeners of the sousaphone or tuba of a brass band, setting the foundation for each song while providing a harmonic counterpoint to the trumpet.

The resulting sound is a mix of brass band inertia and electronic music's hypnotic, pulsing beats they call brasshouse. What makes them so unique is that collaboration on the rhythm. This shower of beats is not too dissimilar to more modern hip hop settings.

In fact, Too Many Zooz's 2016 release Subway Gawdz includes a few guest appearances from MCs Famey, Enda Story, S'natra and Armani White that wouldn't sound out of place on any decent hip hop compilation. More interesting guests are fellow instrumentalists, including the world-beat/electro trio Beats Antique on the song "The Block", while Galactic members Ben Ellman (sax) and Robert Mercurio (bass) and Snarky Puppy organist Cory Henry add their funky skills to the ferocious number "Kings Avenue".

You'll find Too Many Zooz at Nectar Lounge in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood this Sunday night with Bellingham band Willdabeast opening, a crazed blend of high powered EDM with live trumpet and trombone blowing over the top.

If you're still looking to expend a little energy after the Ballard Jazz Festival wraps up, this show will wear you out!

Full disclosure: DJ Abe Beeson will be spinning records from his New Cool vinyl collection before the show.

The New Cool airs Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.