I was at New York’s lovely Highline Ballroom with other soul & hip hop fans in the city a little over two weeks ago to catch The Foreign Exchange (Phonte of Little Brother & Dutch producer Nicolay).   They brought along singers Darien Brockington and YahZarah as well as the Zo! & The ELs band to put on a night of soulful, resonating music.

Phonte performed in a bow-tie and hat, Darien in long sleeves and a vest, but they both rolled up their sleeves and took off their jackets by the end of the night.  Each performer complemented each other perfectly, bringing their own personalities, styles, and layers to the music throughout the evening. Phonte, the night’s host, kept everyone laughing with stories and quips, and his dynamic rapping style. Darien Brockington kept the mood soulful, performing songs from his debut and songs from the new album with a distinctive, nostalgic R&B sound.  YahZarah, pretty much one of the most talented vocalists I’ve seen lately, balanced out Phonte’s style with strong, passionate vocals and brought incredible energy to the stage, clapping and dancing along with her fellow performers and the audience below.  And of course, Nicolay, in the corner bringing out the sounds and beats we all know and love from the Foreign Exchange.

Videos from the show and a review of their new album Leave It All Behind after the jump.

Highlight from the show were the lingering  “I Wanna Know” (“Okay”)  which was intertwined with Phonte’s story-telling, the show-stopping “Take Off Your Blues,” (a “milk and honey bath” of a song, according to Phonte) and the empassioned “Come Around.”

The overall mood at Highline that evening was one of close, resonating energy.  Everyone in the audience was a part of something — feeling the music and the words and the stories together.   It  was simply a group of talented people, who love what they do, happy to share their music, their thoughts, and their Sunday night with some strangers on a crisp New York night.

Check out 2 videos from the show below (unfortunately our videos are no longer available, so enjoy these):



GFM Album Review – Leave It All Behind

The Foreign Exchange’s latest album is Leave It All Behind and is available now on iTunes.  The CD format, available on Amazon.com, comes as a (beautifully packaged, I might add — love the photography) double-pack with both the album versions and instrumentals for your listening pleasure.

The album is smooth, optimistic, jazzy and soulful all at once.  It’s the type of album you put on as the sun is starting to set and you’re home for the evening, feeling reflective.  My favorites are “Take Off the Blues,” the album’s lead single,”I Wanna Know” and the bouncy “All or Nothing / Coming Home to You.”

If you’re a Foreign Exchange , or love some smooth, soulful, music with a modern feel to it, definitely pick up the CD.   And make sure you listen to both sides — hearing the instrumentals of songs like “Take Off the Blues” really brings out so many more layers and textures to the song.