Gizmo, Butcher Brown | Pour House Music Hall | Clubs & Concerts | Indy Week
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Gizmo, Butcher Brown 

When: Sun., Sept. 7, 9 p.m. 2014
Price: $8-$10
Acclaimed bassist, songwriter and musical director Kenneth "Gizmo" Rodgers might be just 23, but he's a throwback to those days when you'd gather around a record player, listening hard to what the bassist was doing underneath the horns, dropping the needle a quarter-inch back to hear the passage again. You don't have to tease out the layers to dig his songs—you can just smile and nod—but the layers are there.

Kicking off his U.S. tour in Raleigh, Gizmo's fresh from recording his second release, the EP The Middle, which features pensive songs smoothed by nimble arrangements that resolve soul, hip-hop, jazz and Latin sounds. The masterstroke is "White Walls," which builds a subtle lament around a spare, memorable organ melody. The tune becomes a little more restless each listen. This is fine cuisine that eats like fast food.

"I truly write and play what I feel," Gizmo says. "Sometimes that comes off simple and sometimes it may be more involved. I try my best to develop strong song ideas first and then everything else is icing on the cake. There is nothing, and will never be anything, as pleasurable as a good, solid song. Sometimes I stray away but it's always at the core."

After recording his debut album, Red Balloon, while still a student at Boston's Berklee College of Music, he has played with Meshell Ndegeocello, Talib Kweli and Victor Wooten and logged studio time with Bilal and Lalah Hathaway.

Check out his intriguing cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." Dialed slightly down from a pop tempo into dense, darker piano chords, the song opens up. Gizmo's unadorned vocals deliver the words rather than flash the voice. You might not tab it as Lauper's hit until a few minutes in.

"It's just a great song to me," Gizmo says. "The production was so good on the track that the lyrics are often overlooked. Slowing the song down and providing a different atmosphere allow the vocals and my interpretation of the song to come through to the listener."

The Art of Cool Project jointly presents this show, which opens with Richmond-based quartet Butcher Brown. —Chris Vitiello

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