Artists: Izz & Azigza
Date of Show: Novemeber 10th, 2002
Event: Progwest 2002, Day Two Reviewed by: Michael Alvarez
There's still NDV, The Mike Keneally Band and of course, Spock's Beard to follow.
Izz is an up and coming group whose music encompasses a wide range of styles. Some of their songs are bright and catchy alternative-style pop, while others are extended progressive opuses with some savagely good musicianship on display. Their lineup features brothers Tom and John Galgano on keyboards and bass guitar, respectively. Both also do their share of lead vocals. Paul Bremner plays guitar, and his solos were filled with passion and precision. The lineup includes two drummers: Brian Coralian on an electronic kit and Greg DiMiceli on an acoustic one. Both meshed very well, providing a tight and punchy interplay with John Galgano's bass work. Rounding out the group are two vocalists, Laura Meade and Anmarie Byrnes. This band is a well-rehearsed and tight unit whose members have great chemistry amongst themselves as well as with the audience. Every performer displayed confidence, professionalism and above all, joy onstage.
A hallmark of their sound is their use of melodies that are simultaneously quirky and catchy. Izz draws from an eclectic pool of influences and synthesizes them into their own unique musical fusion. Hints of Radiohed, Yes and ELP surface in their songs, which can evolve from slow, beautiful ballads to balls-out jams. They do it all: short and memorable pop songs as well as traditional prog epics featuring complex changes and dynamic variations. Their song "Razor" is a good example of this, as it begins as a slow and pretty ballad that builds into a driving rocker. There is even a danceable Latin-flavored section in the middle that allowed Bremner to take a searing guitar solo.
All of this is played with tremendous instrumental and vocal dexterity. At times, keyboardist John Galgano's voice reminded me of Eric Troyer of the ELO offshoot group, The Orchestra. His delivery was clear, precise and versatile. In fact, there are no weak vocalists in Izz. At one point toward the end of their show, the ladies were given the spotlight, and their harmonies were sublime indeed.<> Izz has some interesting and enjoyable music to offer, and they present it with a good-humored nature onstage that makes them as much fun to watch as they are to listen to. They were well-received by the ProgWest audience who made it very clear that they wouldn't have minded an encore or two.
Azigza, a band from the San Francisco Bay Area, might be best described as an ethnic percussion orchestra fronted by a rock band. Their songs are very solidly rooted in the realm of ethnic/world beat music. A dramatic buildup of percussion and droning sound heralded the beginning of their set. When the curtains parted, violinist Aryeh Frankfurter took center stage, soloing over a groove laid down by guitar, fretless bass, drums and world percussion. The violin's fluid tone, weaving and dancing through the complex rhythms, was mirrored by Frankfurter's own gyrating and dancing on the stage. It must be noted that he performs like a man possessed, providing a riveting feast for the eyes while simultaneously delivering dazzling electric violin runs. At other times, he would also play electric guitar.
The band performed a new song that resulted from a dream experienced by guitarist Kevin Evans. It was a dissonant and expressive duel between guitar and violin that turned into an exciting and intense percussion jam. This is obviously a seasoned outfit with a lot of musical experience behind it. Their ability to merge disparate influences and create a unique sound is ample evidence of this. Following this, Azigza introduced their new singer, a fellow named Shiva. This was his fourth performance with them. I found out later that their usual lead singer, Cyoakha Grace, was temporarily absent for personal reasons. This was disappointing, as her powerful vocals and ululations are essential to the band's sonic identity. Nevertheless, Shiva did a fine job of fronting Azigza, sometimes evoking Robert Plant at his most exotic. When they performed the song "Remember" from their first CD, Shiva stepped into Ms. Grace's shoes quite admirably, making it seem as if the song were tailor made for his own singing range and style. At one point, he even unleashed a piercing and powerful falsetto that was almost inhuman.
The range of styles embraced by this band is quite varied. While steadfastly adhering to their exotic vision, they display a keen facility with funk, Bulgarian music in odd time signatures, Egyptian belly dancing songs, a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Friends", and all-out jams that give each band member a chance to stretch out musically.
Their choice of stage clothing added to the authenticity of their presentation, in that it appeared to be from Africa, the Middle East and Asia (I might add that bassist Pierce McDowell was dressed like Obi Wan Kenobi!). Overall, Azigza presents a tightly performed, artistically-focused show that is as fascinating to watch as it is to hear.
~Michael Alvarez for ProgNaut.com on February 1st, 2003
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