With the snow everywhere and iced-over sidewalks threatening to cause major slippage, I was in less than a good mood when I headed out to Arlene's Grocery this past Saturday night. With little in my head other than the need for a strong-ass drink, I was pleasantly blown away by the lively, if all too brief, performance from local band Ippazzi.
The diverse group, fronted by singer/songwriter front man Greg Petronzi, R&B vocalist Elliot Chisholm, and rapper/poet Akil Davis, blossomed after the boys met at an NYU open mic night. Although their individuals influences are as different as humanly possible-- Greg sounds like an even mellower cross between Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson, Akil is a slowed-down-peace-and-love-minded Aesop Rock, and Elliot draws from the soul (and dance moves!) of Mowtown's finest--together they bring something new to an overcrowded indie market where everyone is trying too hard to be different.
The drummer started off bringing the heat right from the first song, and Ippazzi had no trouble easing the crowd into a surf-rock tinged set. The band's varied vocal dimensions are quite unique, as Greg started off the upbeat "All I Need" with his raspy low-toned voice floating beautifully over the hypnotic chords. Just as I was being transported to a far away land of beach bonfires and summer nights, Akil's swift rhymeplay glided effortlessly onto the track and brought me back to reality. The contrast between the climbing chords, Akil's quickening flow, and Greg's soothing croons was exciting and the perfect choice for drawing the crowd in.
The standout track by far was "Judging Me", off their new record which is scheduled to be released to the masses in early 09. Elliot's soulfoul voice really shines through on this John Mayer-esque jam about trying to prove to a lover that you haven't changed. His softness and depth on stage was charming and commanding at the same time, really drawing attention to his flawless voice.
As we crowded close to the front of the stage in Arlene's back room, my friend pointed out that she felt the group's diversity-- their musical and fashion styles are all so different from each other that it's mind boggling--worked well for them because it seemed like despite their differences, these guys all gathered on stage out of nothing more than the desire to jam together. Although they aren't my usual musical taste, I will say that I definitely appreciate Ippazzi for what they are-- good people coming together to make good music.
Check out more tracks, including "Judging Me", here.