Too Many Zooz swap subway for the stage

What: Too Many Zooz with Illvis Freshly and The Funkee Wadd

When: Tuesday

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Where: Lucky Bar, 517 Yates St.

Tickets: $10 at Ditch Records, Lyle’s Place and ticketzone.com

Viral videos are valuable as a promotional tool, no doubt. But modern life as we know it means that some key aspects of the idea will always become lost in translation.

Take jazz trio Too Many Zooz, for example. One year ago, a fan uploaded to YouTube a video of Too Many Zooz performing their original song, To the Top, in the New York subway.

In the clip, which has been viewed about a million times, the band displays an impressive musical dexterity.

Some commuters pass through the frame, on their way to the next subway platform. Many, however, stop and take in the bopping, rocking, and rolling sounds put forth by the twentysomethings. The rest is minor viral video history. But does it tell the real story behind the music?

The group, which performs regularly at the Union Square subway stop in Manhattan, is an oddly-assembled street trio that features Matt Doe's trumpet, Dave Parks’s kick drum and Lou Pellegrino’s baritone saxophone. The music (dubbed “brass house”) is a propulsive blend of jazz, funk and Spaghetti Western salsa. Muirhead said the sound is the combination of its three members’ tastes. The trio came together naturally, which is reflected in their original music, he said.

Some people have a different take on the matter. Bands that reach a wider audience through YouTube almost always draw haters, the bulk of whom assume there are ulterior motives at play. Such is the case here. When it comes to Too Many Zooz, critics have questioned their musical abilities, along with their motivations.

Doe, who attended the Manhattan School of Music with Pellegrino and manages the group, takes offence at such allegations. “I don’t think ‘shtick’ bands are booking tours across the States, you know what I mean?” Doe said Tuesday from a tour stop in San Diego. “I don’t think people should have to prove credentials to make good music or be accepted into communities. That whole ‘good musician’ thing . . . man, if you like how it sounds, that’s all that matters.”

The transition to clubs and festival stages across North America required a steep learning curve, Doe said. The group, which has been playing together for two years, had no trouble getting used to the idea. For that, he credits months of gigs playing to harried subway travellers.

“It’s a really humbling experience playing for New Yorkers,” he said with a laugh.

“To get them to stop, you really have to demand their attention. That was a good way for us to try new songs, to find out what gets a response and what doesn’t.”

Too Many Zooz still plays impromptu subway gigs when the members are back in New York, though that is becoming less frequent these days.

The trio is on the West Coast until February, a run of dates that includes a performance on Tuesday at Lucky Bar. A four-month tour of Europe is also looming.

Life on the road consists of different people and places, which is very much like life in the subway, Doe said. “The subway is such an eclectic group of people. It’s a mixture of everyone from all across the world.”

Too Many Zooz is made up of a similar fabric. Pellegrino is from Pennsylvania, Doe is from Massachusetts and Parks is from Indiana. But the trio differs from others of its subway ilk, Doe said.

“It is easy to have the idea of a subway band in your head, but it can suck going out every day trying to find a spot, or having the cops mess with you.

“But that type of commitment to something makes a band tighter than anything else.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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