By George Halas
Perhaps you’ve caught Sly Joe and The Smooth Operators at a local venue, live on one of the morning TV shows or heard one of their songs played on Parenthood or Friday Night Lights.
If so, you know that their “earthy soul with a funky stroll” is both unique and highly accessible, leaving one toe-tappin’ and feeling good.
If you never heard/heard of Sly Joe (Slyzelia) and The Smooth Operators, this month would be a fabulous time to get acquainted. The band is kicking it up few notches and there are some win-win-win situations coming up. Check out the band’s website for the story up until now.
First up: a video.
“We’re very excited to be filming our first music video on March 2 in Oshkosh,” Slyzelia said, “and we still need fun, enthusiastic people to take part! There will be elements of dance party, polka, parade, and plenty of other hijinks. Acting experience is nice, but not necessary. Filming is happening at an historic location and food/bev will be provided. The song is “I’ve Been Found,” the first single from our forthcoming album.”
The up-coming album is the band’s fifth.
“This album features a lot of new, homegrown, experimental sounds that weren’t on our last albums. Much of that is coming from a production team I’m part of called “Superhero Academy” which contributed about half the tracks on the album,” Slyzelia said. “At the root of it, I still cherish the foundation of melody and lyrics combined with a creatively engineered structure to form a solid song, a song that can hopefully stand the test of time and still have meaning or validation for the listener today and for many tomorrows.”
“I believe that if the song is strong, it can be awesome in just about any adaptation,” he continued. “So we take these naked songs and dress them up in layers of funk, reggae, R&B and more. Our band is heavily involved in creating the soundtrack of this musical party called ‘Life.’ And, like any good party, there is a pulse, a vibe, a groove you can shake your booty to.”
On the other hand….
“And right alongside the wild new sounds, there are also several rootsy songs that feature only acoustic instruments and a simpler, folk-song feel. And they come at just the right time in the album sequence,” Slyzelia said. “It’s like speeding and twisting through the neon currents of a big city, hitting a stretch of open road at the edge of town, and finally arriving at a bonfire in a country meadow surrounded by an orchestra of crickets and frogs and friends with guitars, and everywhere are falling stars.”
“Like our other albums,” he added, “it will appeal to those who enjoy diversity, radiate positivity, and surround themselves with love and happiness.”
The songs will get a special showcase and presentation.
“On March 14 at 7:00 PM, we are playing a very special event at the Algoma Club called “Inside the Song.” It’s an intimate evening of music in the style of VH1 Storytellers and MTV Unplugged,” Slyzelia said. “For the very first time, we’ll be stripping our songs down to bare-bones acoustic versions, and telling illuminating and amusing stories about them. There are several special guests joining us, including Jacob Fannin from NBC’s The Sing-Off.
So this may take a little more than a month…it all comes together in April.
“April 19 is the official release date of our new album and new video at Becket’s in Oshkosh. The fun starts at 8:00 PM with special guest Jacob Fannin and an acoustic set by The Waters Bros. (from Cool Waters Band),” Slyzelia said. “After the premier of our new video, we’ll take the stage, performing songs from our new album, Miles and Miles to Go, as well as old favorites from the Smooth Ops archives. We’ll also be providing a free, special adult beverage to upgrade the evening’s activities––while supplies last.”
The foundation of The Smooth Operators has been built around Slyzelia’s vocals, guitar and keyboard-playing with drummer Mike Underwood, bassist Dave Jerabek, percussionist Robin Cardell and saxophonist/vocalist Ross Catterton.
“Our current line-up is certainly our best, because the pillars that formed the group in 2006 are all still standing strong,” Slyzelia said. “That’s WAMI-award winner Mike Underwood on drums, Dave Jerabek on bass, Robin Cardell on percussion, and Ross Catterton on sax. They all contribute so much to the sound and style of the Smooth Operators, and it’s an absolute joy every time we get to play together. At this point, we all instinctively know how best to serve the songs, while still improvising and making magic on stage. You’ll get a fresh new experience every time you come to hear us.”
There are times when the band expands.
“With that foundation, it’s been fun and easy to expand the group over the years,” Slyzelia continued. “When festival season comes to Wisco, it’s always exciting for us to add some extra brass to the horn section and fill up those big stages. Another addition (and one of my personal favorites) is the backup singers that joined last summer. Vocal harmony is one of my most favorite sounds ever, and our new singers make it sound so sweet together.”
“As always,” he added, “we’re just trying to pay respect to the music that came before, while also embracing the music that is current and relevant to the time we are all living in right now. We’re having fun, shining our lights, and delivering the joyful sounds to the people’s heart and soul.”
The primary focus is the music, but the band wouldn’t mind some new successes.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to see and hear my songs married with many things including worldwide organizations, homemade videos and major network TV shows.” Slyzelia said. “Music is the ultimate performance enhancer, and to fuse it with something like a potent movie scene is a fantastic way to elevate the artistic expression of each, giving the ultimate experience for the audience and the artist.”
“It’s also been extremely gratifying to hear other people cover my songs live and on record,” he added. “And I’m all for some hot, young country/pop star riding one of my songs all the way up the charts. Fine by me.”
The Inquisition can attest to the fact the Sly Joe and The Smooth Operators are the real deal; they bring their in-the-moment happiness with them and can’t help but channel it through their music.
“I wrote a song called “Best Day Ever” a few years ago,” Slyzelia explained. Part of the lyric is:
“Later on is even greater than whatever came before,
The past is passed it will be no more,
Tomorrow we may never know,
So now’s the time, now’s the time we go…
Hey, it’s the Best Day Ever.”
Or you can stay home and watch Justin Bieber on YouTube.
Contact Weather Bull Media at(920)931.2941 if you›d like to participate in the video. You can hear “I’ve Been Found” and other great songs at www.slyjoemusic.com/musicvideo. For more information on the March 14 event, contact the Algoma Club at (920)230.1999 orwww.algomaclub.com/contact.html