4/2/17 – Too Many Zooz “Subway Gawds” (2016)

Too Many Zooz is a New York trio that got started by playing live in Union Station, and their fame exploded when videos of them playing went viral. Their offbeat sound, look, and energetic playing style got a lot of attention. That’s how I was introduced, and I was looking forward to this – their debut full length album.

The star of Too Many Zooz is absolutely Leo Pellegrino – the baritone saxophone player. The amount of sounds he’s able to produce with his sax is just astounding. Contrasting that is the one man drum machine David “King of Sludge” Parks and Matt Doe on trumpet, both very talented players. It’s such an odd combination but just somehow works. Leo Pellegrino sports colorful hair and tight clothes, and he dances around with a baritone sax half the size of him.. it’s something to behold.

Brasshouse Vol 7 No 69 kicks off the album with a variation of the video that went viral – I think a great choice to start. However this rendition isn’t my favorite, I much prefer the viral video’s version. It’d be nice to hear it recorded in the studio like that, but that might just be fan service. The title track Subway Gawdz is a jazzy ditty that suddenly morphs into their signature sound it really mirrors the transition to being in the street and going down into the subway.

Kings Avenue (feat. members of Galactic) is the most Jazzy of the whole album, featuring a big brass section. Following that is introduction of the Hip Hop injection in the album –  Inward (feat. Famey & Endastory). On this track, Too Many Zooz is taking a back seat for the rapping, with the drums and Sax just feeling like samples, rather than someone actually playing the instrument. The Hip Hop sound is repeated in Ftg Pt II, but again nothing notable or exciting. Worse still is Party Island (feat. Kreayshawn), just straight up terrible white girl Rap. I think the best creation of this mix of styles is Talkin Bout (feat. Armani White), where it finally meshes well together. Armani White’s dark and breathless delivery complements Too Many Zooz’s loud punches, and the band is given room to play, but not drown out the rapping.

Overall I think this is really hit and miss, with the hits be terrific, and the misses being just skippable. Part of the problem is that it’s an album, so you miss a lot out of the performance, and thus the draw of the band. In a cramped subway it feels like they have a massive sound, but on an album it feels sparse and lacking something hard to put down. I think they were aware of this too, but went in the wrong direction, with 7 of the songs having someone feature on them. Rather than a collaboration though, it feels like they are just being the backing group to some main band. I’m hoping they continue to grow though, and explore their sound.

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