Live Review: S U M at Rockwood Music Hall in New York, NY

Material: It might be relevant to know what’s behind their name before delving into their music. Pronounced “Soom,” a Latin word meaning “To Be,” encourages people to be true to themselves and to others. Reflecting that philosophy in their set, which is at times hard to classify or brand, their mélange of jazz, funk, soul and pop showcases their versatility and prolific musical skills. Founding members, Steve Belvelus and Patryce Williams, are the co-creators. Belvilus, main composer and driving force behind the band, brings to the table a resume of experience ranging from Broadway to pop greats, which accounts for his diverse approach to each song. Williams, an actress as well as a singer, blends theater and jazz ingredients, adding to that diversity. In “Sinking Sand,” theater influences are evident in the rhythmic pattern of the piano intro. But as the song progresses, more jazz elements emerge. The piano intro serves as a motif throughout the piece, weaving in and out underneath the jazz sections. In “Funk Hip Nasty,” their funk side is mixed with jazz, while “Power Anthem” is primarily a straightforward contemporary jazz number.

Musicianship: Williams, frontperson and lead song’s message while periodically checking in singer, tackles intricate melodic lines, with intervals that need to be dead on, and she does that effortlessly. Her vocal strengths lie more in her delivery and musicianship than in her overall sound, which is warm and inviting, but not unique. The brass-wind section shines with their improvisational riffing, filling in the spaces and propelling the songs in a more jazz direction. The rhythm section adds thematic lines, chordal structure and a solid foundation anchored by Belvilus on drums.

Performance: Williams admirably fulfilled her role as frontperson, jockeying between the demanding material and putting forth each with the audience. Overall, the group exuded an aura of approachability, fully aware of the interplay between performer and audience, keeping them engaged throughout the set.

Summary: Sum should be praised for their openness to varied styles; nevertheless, being true to oneself can be a double-edged sword. While fans crave authenticity, they need clarification and a clear platform to embrace. Sum has nailed part of the equation; however, going forward, further honing of their marketing goals will help cast a wider net. A new release is in the works for this coming spring.

Contact: [email protected]
Web: sumnyc.com
Players: Patryce Williams, vocals, lyrics; Steve Belvilus; drums, composer/arranger, musical director; Andrew Gould, alto sax; Gil “XL” Defay, trumpet, flugel horn; Joel Desroches, piano, Gabriel Otero, bass