Reviews of our Music & Shows:

fo/mo/deep – Syzygy


Earlier this month, Columbus’ own “Eclectic Groove Oriented – Funky Jazz Trio” fo/mo/deep released its fourth album Syzygy – its first as a trio. Their current lineup of bandleader Ron Holmes (Electric & Upright Basses), Andre Scott (Drums) and Robert Mason (Piano, Organ, Keyboards) has crafted another collection of nuanced groove, and continues to entertain live audiences with their growing catalog of organic, earthy sounds. fo/mo/deep performs next at the “Smokin’ Notes” series at Pipes & Pleasures on October 29th at 7pm, followed by their return to Natalie’s on Friday, November 29th at 9:30pm – tickets going fast here. Keep reading for my thoughts on this exciting release from one of the area’s most electrifying bands.

Recorded and mixed by Joey Gurwin of Oranjudio Studios in July 2019, Syzygy showcases a vital unit at the top of its powers. Mason kicks the album off on piano for a sizzling lead, and beautiful outro, on the Curtis Mayfield classic “Move On Up,” and the rhythm section immediately positions themselves as the rock solid foundation of the album’s groove. Original tune “Bourbon Neat” rides Holmes’ bubbling bassline for a funky multiple-keyboard getdown, with Mason contributing his own soulful lines before some dynamite fills from Scott. The trio showcases their skill on encompassing a variety of material in their “eclectic groove” with a swaggering take on Vanessa Carlton’s pop hit “A Thousand Miles,” and Holmes’ bedrock bassline coupled with Scott’s drum prowess powers Mason’s emphatic leads and solo. Mason’s relaxed “Paradise” builds into a thunderous piano showcase with the ever-reliable support of Holmes and Scott. “Maple Street” by John Funkhouser and Adam Saylor starts with, and returns to, a mesmerizing keyboard workout by Mason, employs an extremely catchy chorus, and offers a solo exploration of the bass’ upper reaches by Holmes.

As the album approaches its second half, the band once again takes a look at some of its favorite material. Their take on Michael Jackson ballad “The Lady In My Life” begins life as a languorous and sensuous groover, with the rhythm section establishing a sturdy foundation, and deliberately ascends to high drama aided by Mason’s finesse on the keys. Next are two new looks at John Coltrane standards that the band recorded previously. “Giant Steps” has almost an aquatic feel from Mason’s bubbling keyboards, and the trio is locked in tight. “Naima” stretches out with a stately classic jazz feel, featuring exquisite solo touches from the ensemble before a thrilling climax and a sultry conclusion. Holmes’ “Ellsworth Ave” is an irresistible jam, as heavy bass, unstoppable snares, and melody and atmosphere from multiple keyboards combine for an instrumental tour de force. The trio once again wears its eclectic tastes on its sleeve with a take on 80’s Tears for Fears hit “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.” Holmes’ yearning bass line sets the right tone, and the band mixes memorable melody with its own undeniable groove for an impressive spin through unexpected material. Album finale “The Lover” sees the band tackling fellow funky jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood, and the hazy organ journey expertly reveals the ample power of both outfits.

Syzygy is a lovingly rendered collection recommended for all jazz fans, as their eclectic groove continues to hit a wide variety of spots on the mark. Visit the band’s website for more info, or buy or stream online at CD BabyApple MusicAmazonGoogle PlaySpotify, or Pandora. Check out “The Lover” via video:


fo/mo/deep — Syzygy 
Sept. 13, 2019 

I have been following this eclectic groove machine known as fo/mo/deep since 2010, and I have to say that, with each of its colorful releases (including the current Syzygy — interesting title), the band has given me plenty of reason to continue following it. 

Operating as a trio these days (Ron “FatKat” Holmes on all basses, Andre Scott on drums and percussion, and Robert Mason on piano/keys) and continuing in the vein of eclecticism (as one of its albums is titled, by the way), the group gives nods to the funk/soul groove while still holding up high the contributions of the masters of the traditional jazz persuasion. 

The sound and feel here is rich, full, and speaks clearly of quality musicianship and music that was well-produced, well-selected (in the case of covers), and well-thought-out (in the case of originals). 

Tracks of particular note to me are an impressive cover of the late great Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” a snappy, keys-tight “Bourbon Neat,” a funky piano-chatty cover of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” a lazy-smooth and soulful little number called simply “Paradise” that (guess what?) displays more top-tier piano work — in fact, all of these goodies highlight Mason’s marvelous piano/keys work (a huge nod to the unselfishness of bandleader Holmes who clearly knows what he has in Mason — certainly not to take a single thing from the bassist himself or his in-the-pocket drummer). 

There are also superb covers of a couple of Coltrane gems “Giant Steps” and “Naima”) , as well as a very interesting take on the Rod Temperton-penned “The Lady In My Life” (recorded by Michael Jackson and, later, by Lou Rawls) and a brilliant version of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Much more here to enjoy as well. 

Eclecticism personified, this highly perceptive trio of quality musicians deserves a serious listen. Two thumbs up– Ronald Jackson of  The Smooth Jazz Ride -

sonic soul reviews

in between soul and jazz

2019 – das Nach-Hören, Teil 2. Fo/Mo/Deep aus Ohio. Trio-Formation – Piano, Bass, Schlagzeug. Das klassische Jazz-Format eben. Robert Mason ergänzt sein Tasten-Instrumentarium um die üblichen Verdächtigen aus der E-Abteilung – und nimmt eine volltönende Orgel gleich mit dazu. Ab den Takt gibt uns natürlich die Rhythmus-Abteilung bestehend aus Band-Leader Ron “FatKat” Holmes am Bass und Schlagzeuger Andre Scott.Und die macht aus Fo/Me/Deep eine überaus unterhaltsam-spannende Jazz-Funk-Groove Combo, deren Sound-Konzept locker und leicht durch das 11-teilige Song-Sortiment von „Syzygy“ (übrigens ein Begriff aus dem Computerschach…) trägt. Gut bekannte Jazz-und Soul-Standards (Coltranes „Naima“ oder auch Mayfields „Move On Up“ oder eben auch Pop-Hits wie „Everybody Wants…“ aus dem Tears For Fears Hits-Arsenal) und eigene Songs auf Ton-Höhe – ordentlich Schwung im Beat und feine Soli obendrauf. Nutzt sich nicht ab – perfekt zum „Immer-Wieder-Hören“.


2019 - Listening, Part 2. Fo / Mo / Deep from Ohio. Trio formation - piano, bass, drums. The classic jazz format. Robert Mason supplements his keyboard instruments with the usual suspects from the e-department - and adds a sonorous organ. From the bar, of course, the rhythm section consisting of band leader Ron “FatKat” Holmes on bass and drummer Andre Scott gives us. And that turns Fo / Me / Deep into a very entertaining and exciting jazz-funk-groove combo and its sound -Concept relaxed and light thanks to the 11-part range of songs from “Syzygy” (a computer chess term, by the way ...). Well-known jazz and soul standards (Coltrane's "Naima" or Mayfield's "Move On Up" or even pop hits like "Everybody Wants ..." from the Tears For Fears hits arsenal) and own songs at pitch - neat swing in the beat and fine solos on top. Doesn't wear out - perfect for “listening again and again”.

The Groovy Goodness: by Chris Mann, Smooth Jazz Daily….  I reviewed fo/mo/deep's previous record "A Beautiful Bang" and I'm glad to have been able to keep up with the band between the release of that record and 2014’s deliciously titled "The Groovy Goodness".   As I type this, summer seems like it's upon us and the burst of energy that is '1974' just makes it feel all the more real. The passionate sax and electric piano solos reinforce what the rhythm section has told you from minute one - it's on! I just went back and listened to this song after drafting this first paragraph - because I can't get that sax hook out of my head, in fact this whole song has grabbed me and won't let go. Funk lovers are in more familiar territory with 'Block Party', which is a sax-led head-nodding number. There is a lot of air in Ron Holmes' fretless bass line and André Scott's snare drum pattern - which I always love - this must be a great jam live.   Is it a Motown track, or a big band number creepin' up on you? Neither - it's 'Groidology'. It has a real swagger, helped by the loping upright bass line. I loved this song the first time I heard it and it gets better all the time. The rhythmic figure on piano and *that* trombone solo bring it on home. Mighty, mighty. Blues? Is John Lee Hooker in the house? 'Peach Cobbler' has an old Crusaders sound - and I mean that this sounds like Wilton Felder and Joe Sample circa 1972. The break midway through has an almost carnival vibe - it sounds like someone is having a ball in the studio!    'If We, Can Be..' is a short but grand solo piano intro to the ballad 'As She Walked Away', which is a lovely segue, let me say. Joshua Boyd gets a sense of drama reminiscent of the Isley Brothers' 'Highways of my Life'. The ballad itself is very radio friendly, and I mean that in the most positive way. Smooth jazz and NAC stations should be giving this heavy airplay. Tenor sax takes the melody but it's the piano that really sets the tone. The swell of the fretless bass and that skipping snare are more hypnotic than you realize.   There's a lovely retro feel to the chunky 'That Song (This Love)'. Keith Newton's tenor sax leads off and states the melody clearly before the groove lays back and the sax takes a lyrical solo. The electric piano interjects but the pleading sax takes it home. That same sax burns on the short and very sweet solo piece 'You Can Love me Twice the Next Time'. Hear this on headphones and feel chills.  'The Price of Suga'' is a frenzied piece written in 6/4. The fretless bass almost sounds like a voice, and the electric piano and soprano sax whirl around as if to drive the bass crazy. Then the bass goes crazy - the tension was building to the point where it had to cut loose. Peace of mind by the end? You decide. Certainly in the closer 'Chamsa (A Tribute to Shimrit Shoshan)' the solo piano makes you close your eyes in contemplation.  My review of the previous CD I talked about the honest nature of this band's music. They have a tightness and togetherness that must come from the many gigs I see publicized on social media, and it's delivered to music buyers intact thanks to uncluttered and elegant production which, to my ears, is rare in these times. The more I listen, the more I'm drawn in to the fo/mo/deep sound - and I like that.   And here's a shout out to Ron and Sandra Holmes for one of the most funky, engaging and joyful pieces of cover design I've seen in years. It's often used as my computer wallpaper, both at home and at work. Drawn in… -  Chris Mann, Smooth Jazz Daily
Fo/Mo/Deep: The Groovy Goodness (2014) By EVERETT R. DAVIS,  Bassist Ron "FatKat" Holmes and the members of fo/mo/deep are back in a big way with the highly anticipated release of The Groovy Goodness. The The Groovy Goodness contains nine pleasantly delightful, cool funk jazz tracks that take you on a winding journey reminiscent of the 70's, and 80's smooth jazz that moved, grooved, and soothed the soul. The jam session opens with "1974" (T. MӓKynen) which is loaded with catchy in-and-out piano and saxophone melodies that stimulate your mind body and soul. Known for holding nothing back, the group glides into the funky and upbeat "Block Party" (K. Newton) which sets up the groove for the hardest hitting and most soulful track of the release, "Groidology" (P. Everett). This edgy fusion laced track spotlights the rhythmic tenor sax, trombone, and piano solos of Dr. Keith Newton, N. Michael Goecke, and Josh Boyd respectfully. It's loaded with a hard hitting musical euphoria that will surely get you in the groove whether you are on your morning commute or just kicking back and relaxing.  Slowing down the pace a bit, "Peach Cobbler" (R. Holmes) is a smorgasbord of cool vocal taunts, superb saxmanship, and a smooth bass track sprinkled with a generous dose of organ. "As She Walked Away" (R. Holmes) is a relaxing and imaginative track that easily draws you in while relaxing piano melodies and sultry sax grooves invoke tranquil thoughts and images that are sometimes best left to the imagination. The set closes out with "Chamsa" which features a masterful piano solo by Joshua Boyd and is a tribute to jazz pianist Shimrit Shoshan who passed in 2012 at age of 29.  Composer and bassist, Ron "Fatkat" Holmes and fo/mo/deep do not disappoint with The Groovy Goodness. This is a delightful and stimulating return to the days when cool jazz reigned supreme. -  EVERETT R. DAVIS, All About Jazz
................"Big thank you once again for coming out and playing at our little series. You guys sounded really tight, funky and just groovin, really great stuff. It's been a while since I saw you last and you guys just keep getting tighter. We had some really positive comments from people who probably haven't seen you before. Keep up the great work!"......- Mark Subel, Harrison West Jazz Stage
fo/mo/deep – The Groovy Goodness (2014) Fresh from the fusion triumph of A Beautiful Bang, Columbus, Ohio’s fo/mo/deep is poised to take listeners on another funky ride through the fun side of jazz. The Groovy Goodness — on sale June 3, 2014 — does a good job maintaining that good vibe fostered on the prior release without going out and mailing it in with a  A Beautiful Bang, Vol. 2The Groovy Goodness is its own entity, marked particularly by a feel that a bit more organic and although the band’s handmade music was already too rugged to be considered your run-of-the-mill smooth jazz, Groovy is maybe a tad angular still. Led by its bassist Ron ‘FatKat’ Holmes, fo/mo/deep is completed by Dr. Keith Newton (saxophones), Andre’ Scott (drums) and Joshua Boyd (keyboards).  Funk remains the name of the game, and you’ll find sinewy grooves in “Block Party” and “Peach Cobbler” and “That Song (This Love),” where Holmes can be counted on to anchor them down with chunky, imposing bass lines while Newton’s big, impassioned tone carries the bulk of the melody with Boyd rounding it out.  “Groidology” is contemporary but connects directly to the acoustic soul-bop of the 60s, especially with the guest appearance of N.M. Goecke on trombone. “The Price of Suga’” suggests the underrated funky but lissome harmonic progression of Spyro Gyra.  A Beautiful Bang had four covers, The Groovy Goodness has just two, and these are much more obscure. “1974″ is from Finnish flugelhorn specialist Jukka Eskola’s 2005 self-titled album and composed by his drummer Teppo Mäkynen. Its breezy, Brazilian vibe and the fetching melody captured on electric piano are faithfully captured by fo/mo/deep, but Newton along with former band keyboardist Kevin Jones share the lead voice. “Chasma” is a sober but pretty melody that was composed by the promising Israeli pianist Shimrit Shoshan, who died suddenly a couple of years ago at the age of 29. Boyd alone gives a tender reading of this song on acoustic piano. A regional act with nationwide chops, poise and appeal, fo/mo/deep keeps a good thing going with The Groovy Goodness. - S. Victor Aaron, Something Else Reviews
Fo/Mo/Deep: The Groovy Goodness: Very nice work, and another reason to reconsider jazz as a member of the Urban format. Very contemporary, funky, and of course, jazzy. The Groovy Goodness covers a lot of ground, and it is an energy charged, engaging listen right from the start. -
Brent Black, @ CriticalJazz ….”A release as deep and rich as the cover art, I’m hooked…The development of a major label artist or act is rare. Sign the deal and your job is to now write for radio and play what sells. With all the baggage that comes with an independent artist that one shiny star is artistic integrity. Fo/Mo/Deep is back with an eclectic groove that pulls from a myriad of influences yet with the skills necessary to keep it tight and moving. Diversity is indeed a righteous groove. I don’t venture into the contemporary jazz waters often but in keeping with my commitment to the independent artist, Fo/Mo/Deep makes it a pleasure and they make it easy. ………”
Fo/Mo/Deep – A Beautiful Bang....You can find out about this 5-piece, Ohio-based ‘funky jazz collective’ on their website. I can tell you that ‘A Beautiful Bang’ is fo/mo/deep’s second album (after ‘Eclecticism’) and, well, let’s get right into it… I’m a fan of funky jazz collectives, such as Incognito and Down to the Bone and I’m already placing FMD squarely in that bracket when I hear the bass-driven groove of the opener ‘Jawjacka’ (love that title). This instrumental focuses on the funk and has some nice key changes. Keith Newton’s tenor sax is well up in the mix and sounds really strong. The whole song reminds me of Paz at their best. That same sax tone pervades on the sexy ‘Martini Blues’, which slows the pace right down and allows you to enjoy the flavour of Kevin Jones’ old-school electric piano. I’m drawn in already.  FMD’s take on Bobby Hutcherson’s ‘Montara’ has that deeply urban jazzy vibe that I’ve loved for so long in Incognito’s music. From the first few bars, I know I’ll be playing this for years. Ron Holmes’ sinewy bassline teams perfectly with André Scott’s crisp snare and underpins this gorgeous mid-tempo instrumental all the way. Over headphones especially, Kevin Pouncey’s percussion really adds a layer of style to this song. Fatkat’s fretless bass solo sure does it for me! On ‘Mama Said, Mama Said’ the only word you need to remember is funk. Some nice rhythm guitar gets poured over the already tight rhythm section. The organ solo on here is straight out of the 1970’s – where I live that’s a great thing!  The 6 String Electric Upright bass solo that starts ‘Da Ba Di Do (Sonrisa de Zoe)’ took me by surprise but I was pleased to hear it build into a nicely offbeat, almost Latin instrumental with some nicely zany background vocals and percussion. Makes me smile each time I play it.  The title track has,” A Beautiful Bang” in contrast, almost an African feel to it, with some great backbeats and lively percussion touches. The horn arrangement is particularly worth mention, as is the funky breakdown which must work great live!  Let your hips move to the slinky reggae wiggle that is ‘Red Clay’. It’s a Freddie Hubbard composition and I’ve never heard the original – I don’t care because this has flavour, then more flavour, and then just a little more… Where is the album’s big ballad? It’s right here in ‘The Wanting’, which brings a complete change of tempo from all that’s gone before and allows soprano sax acoustic piano to weave a melody together that will really stick in your head. This is modern instrumental soul on a par with Brian Culbertson, Marcus Johnson or Marion Meadows. Fabulous!  Keith Newton’s hits – and holds – an impossibly high note on soprano sax to kick off a slippery version of Fela Kuti’s ‘Gentleman’. It it weren’t for the cleanliness of the production, you’d swear this had been recorded back in the day. The groove is repetitive and hypnotic and really gets under your skin. As you’d expect from Fela Kuti, the song has a message – and it comes across loud and clear! Holmes goes nice and low – ah yes, a 6-string bass gives away the fact that this funk is now!!  This band can write – and play – the blues and they let you hear it to great effect on the sax-led ‘My Baby Gots’ the Blues, Blues’. It’s a classic – well, it’s going to be.  Talking of classics, John Coltrane’s lovely ‘Naima’ has been interpreted by many artists and this grand treatment is my favorite from the versions I’ve heard – and they include those by Gene Harris and Tom Browne. Its beauty lies in its simplicity: we have piano and tenor sax and that’s all we need for a gorgeous piece of real jazz. This isn’t a cover version – it’s a homage. When you read a title like ‘A Plethora of Pleasant Thoughts’ you expect the musical equivalent of your favorite comfort food – well I do. And here it is, with its Latin sway and soothing percussion. Fans of Mongo Santamaria and Dave Valentin, you won’t be disappointed with this one. ¡Sabroso! The sombre closer ‘The Road’ has a lovely ‘live’ feel, coming mostly from the way the drum track is recorded. The sax, piano and background vocals all share a 70’s, almost Blue Note-style, soulfulness. Hard to describe that I mean by that – you really need to hear this record anyway.  In the years that I’ve been writing about music, it’s always been a pleasure to hear the latest release from my favorite artists. It’s a real joy though to hear music this good from a band I just discovered. The writing, performing and producing talent on display here is really dazzling, but what I like most is the honest, funky nature of a band that knows where its roots lay, what it does well and what its audiences are going to love. - Chris Mann, Smooth Jazz Daily