By Al-Lateef Farmer

Thursday nights are meant for many things: payday, preparation for the weekend and Happy Hour among them, but for “Rock, Paper, Soul” and Drom, it is cause for getting down. Fortunately for those that dodged raindrops on Avenue A this particular Thursday, Sy Smith and Zo! commanded the bandstand with a singular goal…set the party off!

Taking the stage in front of their band, the duo seamlessly weaved between their respective solo albums and collaborations through the years, kicking off with a rendition of “Nights Over Egypt” that made any unsuspecting concertgoer aware of the business at hand. Showcasing a rare mix of musical marksmanship, impeccable vocals, interactivity and a unique feel for the audience, Sy and Zo! I want to be clear, they didn’t simply stand in front of a drummer and guitar players all night, their band consisted of the requisite drums and bass, but also included a flute and sax as they fronted on dual keyboards.

That level of live musicianship is an element thriving in the new underground, the Indie Soul music that’s bubbling beneath the surface of the mainstream that Sy Smith happens to be at the vanguard of and the tracks performed from her latest album Fast and Curious are proof positive that she’s continuing to push the envelope and knows no bounds of creativity. Alongside Zo!, she seems extremely comfortable, almost as if he’s her musical soulmate and their chemistry was undeniable through the entire show. The dynamic duo laughed, teased the crowd, called musical audibles, posed for photos, huddled with the band and overall led an evening of fun unsurpassed by many live shows.

It was all in good fun, all in the name of good music; the soundtrack to this Thursday night kept shoulders moving, feet tapping and hips grooving. Personally, I was waiting to see if the Billy Ocean cover “Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)” would be performed, even though it didn’t appear that Rahsaan Patterson was in the building. However, there was another crooner in the building and Gordon Chambers took the stage for a rendition that tore the house down. Speaking of house, the band’s
interpretations of House classics like “Gypsy Woman” and “Follow Me” were an added bonus to the night, as was Sy’s dedication to Whitney Houston (whom she toured as a backing singer) that further showcased her tremendous vocal ability.

“Rock, Paper, Soul” displayed a tremendous array of talent; Darien Dean and Morris Alan preceded the headliners and the opening show featuring Mattie Safer, DomiJo and Paul Rivers Bailey really set the template for the evening. However, Sy Smith’s voice stole the show and the band led by Zo! drove the getaway car as she hit notes usually associated with Mariah and the aforementioned Houston. The energy spent inside the venue on and off stage was of mutual respect and benefit, because it was Soul music that brought us all together and in Soul music we rejoiced that evening.