While Lorenzo "Zo!" Ferguson could have been classified as a beatmaker based on his early hip-hop releases and productions for others in the first few years of the 2000s, he has always been a musician first. Foremost a keyboardist, yet one who also plays bass, drums, and guitar, and writes, arranges, and produces his own material, he has subsequently thrived with a sound that has put a contemporized twist on soul and jazz-R&B fusions of the late '70s and early '80s, inspired by multi-tasking originators like Stevie Wonder, Larry and Fonce Mizell, and Leon Sylvers III. From 2010 through 2019, beginning with ManMade and closing out the decade with FourFront, Ferguson issued solo albums every three years with the support of primary collaborators the Foreign Exchange, and ventured into writing and producing music for film and television, including the series Black Dynamite and Sherman's Showcase. He has since entered the 2020s with the Tall Black Guy collaboration Abstractions (2021).
Throughout his childhood, Lorenzo Ferguson balanced his love for music and baseball. The Detroit-area native was drafted as an outfielder by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1996, rounds ahead of future MLB all-stars Orlando Hudson, Juan Pierre, and Barry Zito. Ferguson accepted a full-ride athletic scholarship to Western Kentucky, however, and earned a degree in graphic design. He began his recording career shortly thereafter with Ablyss (2001), the first of several instrumental releases. His profile increased the next few years as he issued albums such as Passion & Definition (2004), Freelance (2006), and the Asylum 7 collaboration Overdue Process (2009), as well as the covers EPs ...Just Visiting, Zo! and Tigallo Love the '80s, and ...Just Visiting Too (2006-2009). All the while, Ferguson was earning a Master's degree in special education and contributing to recordings from the likes of Slum Village, Platinum Pied Pipers, and Little Brother.
During the latter half of the 2000s, Zo!'s deepest bond was made with the Foreign Exchange. The group's Phonte had become a regular collaborator on ...Just Visiting. Zo! then produced material for the Foreign Exchange's Leave It All Behind and co-leader Nicolay's City Lights, Vol. 2: Shibuya, and eventually became FE's musical director. The second ...Just Visiting EP was Zo!'s first release through Foreign Exchange Music and led to a triennial series of solo full-length projects. SunStorm (2010), ManMade (2013), SkyBreak (2016), and FourFront (2019) each featured a shifting cast of guest vocalists and songwriters, most commonly Phonte, Sy Smith, and frequent touring/performing partner Carmen Rodgers. The increasingly refined and stylistically adventurous albums were evenly spaced amid Zo!'s work as an educator, and instrumentation and production for other artists, including all things Foreign Exchange and related. Zo! also branched out with music for documentaries and television, ranging from the animated series Black Dynamite to Making SkyBreak and Black White & Blue. He and Phonte wrote and produced many of the songs for Sherman's Showcase, a sketch comedy series for IFC. Joined by a mix of longtime and new associates including Omar and Josh Milan, Zo! and Tall Black Guy teamed to make Abstractions, a brief, feel-good set released in 2021. ~ Andy Kellman
BORNSeptember 11, 1978