Opener: Dragons of Zynth
DJ Rashad “Tumblin’Dice” Smith
December 11, 2014
Presented by Jill Newman Productions and OkayPlayer
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11249
DETAILS | TICKETS
Somehow in our hunger for perfection it’s become difficult for music to just be. And so when Bilal began making A Love Surreal (his latest-and fourth cd over all) the acclaimed Grammy nominated vocalist/songwriter/producer knew where he needed to go. “I’ve always wanted to make music that is so basic and simple that it can be recreated every time. Something simple like a jazz standard. On this album I let go of a lot of shit for the first time and that opened my eyes up to a lot of more stuff. It was a real complete thought.”
A soulful rumination on love’s varying rhythms Bilal describes A Love Surreal as a “musical art gallery.” As the title might suggest the cd is a reference to the father of Surrealism Salvador Dali. Although Bilal is quick to point out that he isn’t “a painting connoisseur” he loves Dali’s work. And has long been intrigued by the possibilities of fusing art and music. “When I was younger and living in New York City I became friends with a young artist who was making a living off his art. He considered himself a musician and playing guitar would get him thinking about painting. Through him I saw how I could make music out of something visual and vice versa. I was beginning to think in a bigger picture and so, when I went into A Love Surreal I was no longer just looking at things as being “just” a singer. I really put something into it.” A Love Surreal found Bilal taking on the self -described role as “complete brain master.” In actuality he produced or co produced a majority of the cd. “I built a big landscape and put it all together when I got into the studio. I’d come up with an initial shape of a song on my laptop and take it to the studio and instead of keeping a lot of the electronic stuff I’d teach it to my band and then we’d expand from that. I’d lay down ideas, little words, mumbles and then we’d sketch out the rest of the lyrics.” Creating the cd took about a year and Bilal cites the fast pace and forward movement as a reason why “everything come out naturally.”
The first single, “Back To Love”, takes listeners on a journey through the trials and tribulations of a relationship. Self produced, the smooth meandering of Bilal’s vocals, along with the instrumentation, paints the picture of a couple navigating falling in and out of love. “It’s about getting back to the one. The initial passion and spark, the fire. In everything and at different times we all find ourselves at that place where we need to reaffirm things.” “Butterfly” reteams Bilal and his old friend Robert Glasper; it is the third time these innovative artists have joined forces. “Robert and I went to college together but “Butterfly” is the first time we did, like, a little duet. No drums, no nothing; just piano, vocal and a little keyboards.”
Featuring KING, an all girl R&B trio from Minneapolis, “Right at the Core“ is knee deep in a sensual, aloof sound that brings to mind Prince circa 1999. “’The Core’” is an interesting song because there’s not a real lead vocal, it’s almost a choral type of vibe.”
“West Side Girl” undulates with a mysterious groove reminiscent of Sly Stone’s “Family Affair.” The song was recorded with a crew of friends including Sa-Ra’s Shafiq Husayn and up and coming jazz bassist Steven “Thunder Cat” Bruner, who Bilal compares to the late Jaco Pastorious.
Born in Philadelphia Bilal Oliver is a schooled musician and dynamic live performer whose artistry draws from jazz, soul, and hip-hop. With fans that includes Eryka Badu, Janelle Monae, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammed and featured spots with, among others, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Diddy and Common, Bilal made his major label debut with 2001’s First Born Second. The cd sold over 300, 000 copies and announced that Bilal was an artist to watch. Bilal’s sophomore recording Love For Sale leaked to the internet before its official release and would enjoy over half a million downloads. 2010 saw Air Tight’s Revenge, which yielded the Grammy nominated “Little Ones”.
Ask Bilal how he sees A Love Surreal and he replies without hesitation. “I’ve always had a lot of information about what it is that I wanted to do but sometimes it would come off as obscure. This time I think I’ve set out what I meant to do.” Simple enough, right?
The long awaited return of Brooklyn’s Dragons of Zynth has arrived. Performing their first international show in 3 years, the band has just touched down from the UK’s ATP festival, sharing a bill with esteemed hip hop legends De La Soul, Death Grips and Doom.
Formed in 2007, Dragons of Zynth, also known as “D.O.Z.”, The band is fronted by twins, Aku and Akwetey O.T. with Chicago native Jason B. Lucas aka ‘Bizza’ on drums. Having trained classically since the age of 5, Aku and his twin began playing together after studying music theory and performance with legendary saxophonist/flutist Yusef Lateef. Later travels to Ghana and South America (respectively) gave the young men new lenses with which to hone their craft.
Returning to New York, the two began unearthing their own songs engaging Lateef’s “auto-physio-psychic” understanding of music, carving new sounds out of rhythms and melodies at once familiar and far out. As early demos took form, the band’s live shows in Brooklyn began catching the attention of New York’s burgeoning music scene.
It is with their first demo recordings that D.O.Z. won notice, catching the eye of Yeah Yeah Yeahs producer David Andrew Sitek. After a run of highly touted New York shows the Dragons were tapped by the TV on The Radio producer to complete their debut, 2007’s Coronation Thieves. The album features guest appearances by Celebration, TV on the Radio, and Antibalas.
Following their debut the band was invited by Bristol group Massive Attack to join their Heliogland vocal sessions.This overseas trip sparked two years of international touring with the band going on to share stages with Television, Yeasayer, Modest Mouse, Grizzly Bear, and The Roots.
In 2010 the band announced a hiatus to begin writing their sophomore effort and pur¬sue personal projects. After being noticed by a casting agent on tour, the twins made their foray onscreen later that year. An appearance in the Robert Pattin¬son produced Remember Me soon led to featured roles Zynth crooners. Akwetey landed a spot as a labor striker in season two of Boardwalk Empire, and Aku appears in his onscreen debut as ”Fast Kid” in Lex Sidon’s feature Grand Street.
Off the screen the brothers commenced DOZ studio sessions in Brooklyn and Los Angeles while collaborating and touring with friends. Aku fea¬tures on ”Tiger” off the debut album of Maximum Balloon producer David Sitek. The album features contributions by Celebration’s Katrina Ford, The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O,and David Byrne. In 2011 Aku was invited by Santi White of Santigold to play both bass and keys on her worldwide Master of My Make Believe tour.
Back in full swing multi-insturmentalist and vocal¬ist Aku is now producing the yet to be named Dragons full-length. As the band preps for its release members continue collaborative work. In June 2013 the band will appear in Grosse Fatigue by French artist Camille Henrot. The sound and video installation is commissioned by the Venice Biennial. D.O.Z.’s sophomore release is expected in the Fall of 2013.
JILL NEWMAN PRODUCTIONS