A house and EDM band composed of a baritone saxophonist, a trumpeter and a drummer might be unexpected. Last Wednesday night at The Haunt, however, Too Many Zooz defied conventional musical expectations and did so. With screaming trumpet melodies from Matt Doe, evocative dance moves from Leo P and heart-pounding beats from The King of Sludge, Too Many Zooz brought a large EDM festival ambiance to an intimate Ithaca venue.
Too Many Zooz is a self-defined “brass house” trio consisting of saxophonist Leo Pellegrino, trumpeter Matt Doe, and drummer David “The King of Sludge” Parks. I had a chance to sit down with Pellegrino before the show and learn about the band and how they got their start.
Taking a bite out of a piece of celery, Pellegrino explained that he met Doe while studying music at the Manhattan School of Music. The third piece of Too Many Zooz came into the picture when Pellegrino started playing in another band called Drumadics, through which he met The King of Sludge. When The King of Sludge announced to the Drumadics that he was going to busk after rehearsal to make some extra money, Pellegrino was “the only person who showed up.” He then asked Doe to accompany them and after that first day they realized that they had a “pretty unique sound going.” After playing together in the subways of New York City and creating an EP “from popular demand,” Too Many Zooz grew into the brass-house ensemble that it is today.
Too Many Zooz’ unique sound generated substantial interest from the music industry leading to the group playing with Beyoncé at the Country Music Awards in November 2016. Pellegrino described the experience as “heavenly” and “angelic.” He continued, “Seeing music industry on that level is pretty amazing.”
At The Haunt, the trio entered the stage to roaring applause from the audience and immediately began playing, sans introduction. They began with a lively beat from The King of Sludge, a booming bassline from Pellegrino and escalating trumpet licks from Doe, meant to echo the synths popularized in house and EDM. Occasionally Doe and Pellegrino would exchange roles or take emotional solos. A unique feature of the group is The King of Sludge’s drum-rig: he had a single bass-drum tied around his legs with cowbells, cymbals and much more attached to the top for added percussive effect.
From the moment they entered the stage to an hour afterwards, there was a consistent stream of energetic, upbeat and exhilarating music. The group literally did not stop playing for an hour straight — an impressive feat for any instrumentalist. What made this marathon even more impressive was Pellegrino’s signature dance moves. Having to play such a large and cumbersome instrument while kicking and running around stage is not easy, even for a short period of time.
Once they stopped playing, Doe introduced the band and they got right back to it. They played songs such as “To the Top,” “Get Busy” and “F.W.S.” from their January 2014 EP titled F Note, and “Brass House Vol. 7 No. 68” and “Subway Gawdz” from their June 2016 LP titled Subway Gawdz. At one point in the performance, Doe cleverly inserted the melody from famed producer J Dilla’s track “Time: The Donut of the Heart,” displaying some of his musical influences. The group as a whole showcases a fresh take on famous artists who came before them. When I spoke with Leo prior to the show, he had mentioned that the saxophonists who influenced his playing in his early days were “John Coltrane, Clarence Clements, Pepper Adams and Leo Parker.”
The audience was quite engaged in the performance, dancing and moshing throughout the night. The group’s energy was certainly felt by the members of the audience who were crowd-surfing periodically throughout the performance. At one point, Pellegrino disappeared and returned with a shimmering black tenor saxophone while Doe transitioned to playing his keyboard rather than trumpet, conjuring a more aggressive and exotic sound. The crowd went crazy as Pellegrino held the saxophone up in the air like Rafiki did with Simba in The Lion King.
Through an exciting brass house performance and an inspiring display of endurance, Too Many Zooz rocked The Haunt until the show was over. Their first foray into Ithaca’s music scene was declarative, powerful and undeniably memorable.
David Grey is a sophomore in the School of Industrial Labor and Relations. He can be reached at dag366