Recently, while checking out different jazz and R&B artists on youtube, I stumbled onto a live video of Berklee’s Gizmo performing “Red Balloon.” He is a bassist and music director who is releasing a project where he explores his abilities as a songwriter and singer. The first thing I noticed about his group was the aesthetic that was brought to the table. It had a very urban-cultural-revival vibe that called back to artists like Erykah Badu and Meshell Ndegeocello in such a way that established a sense of maturity and easily recognizable vision. Even more so, the maturity of the music comes through in the amazing performances of all members and a contemplative feeling in the lyrics and vocal style. While his vocals leave something to be desired in terms of ability, the simplicity and rawness of his voice makes it feel more personal.
What struck me about this music was the amazing variety and contrasting nature behind his live performance vs. the studio version. While most Neo-Soul or R&B tracks are fairly static, making use of samples and drum machines, they constitute nothing more than a “sketch” to build upon in live situations. This is one way to tell a truly musical act apart from a pop sensation: what do they do in a live context? What is clear from his live performance is that there is some real artistry going on here.