A group of metro Detroit musicians will celebrate the legacy of The Allman Brothers Band with a special tribute show tomorrow night.
Top Cats Detroit, a classic rock band infused with blues, jazz and progressive influences, will revisit the memorable set from the southern rock band’s legendary March 1971 Fillmore East show in New York City at Sweetwater Entertainment, 1450 S. Hospital Road, in Waterford at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
Released in July 1971, “At Fillmore East” is The Allman Brothers Band’s first live album and one of the last records to feature Duane Allman before he died tragically in a motorcycle accident.
“The musicianship and the level to which they had mastered the blues and then put their own spin on it, it’s just mind-blowing,” said Scott Zanni, Top Cats Detroit vocalist and percussionist. “To this day, with the exception of Peter Frampton’s ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ and ‘Live Bullet’ from Bob Seger, this has to be one of the best and most notable live recordings.”
As part of Top Cats Detroit, Zanni and his bandmates, including Frank Faga (guitar, vocals), Steve Bander (guitar), William Pope III (bass), Shawn McDonald (keys) and Ron Pangborn (percussion), will vicariously relive the spirit of “Statesboro Blues,” “Hot ‘Lanta” “Whipping Post” and other Allman Brothers Band classics. Mark “The Paz” Pasman, host of WCSX’s (94.7 FM) “The Motor City Blues Project” show, will join the band for part of the set.
“We did the show at Sweetwater Entertainment last month, they liked us and said let’s have you come back and do it again,” Zanni said. “We also do other covers and groovy tribute stuff with an emphasis on technical playing.”
Also a guitarist and solo performer as part of Bleeding Heart Music, Zanni developed a passion for playing music while growing up in Commerce Township. At age six, he received an acoustic guitar for Christmas and later graduated to an old electric Crestwood by age 13. Throughout junior high and high school, he expanded his musical palate and explored other genres.
“I was definitely a chorale guy and into musicals, I did special ensembles, like Renaissance music and vocal jazz,” said Zanni, who grew up listening to Bob Seger, Motown and grunge. “It’s all part of the rounding.”
After high school, Zanni studied music at Western Michigan University (WMU) and Michigan State University (MSU) before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications. He developed a flair for broadcast and media production and worked shifts at WDBM (88.9 FM), MSU’s radio station.
While working professionally in media production, Zanni also honed his musical chops with writing, recording and performing as a solo acoustic act. He’s written and recorded more than 200 classic rock, alternative rock, blues and grunge-inspired songs over the years in his Eastpointe home studio.
Many of Zanni’s heartfelt songs include lush harmonies mixed with highly introspective and emotional lyrics influenced by personal circumstances and experiences. “Worst Day Ever” is a tender acoustic tribute to his late mother, who passed away in 2006 at age 56 while “Time I Went Away” serves as a strong musical reminder to get out of a bad relationship as quickly as possible.
“‘Time I Went Away’ is one of those songs where you’re in something you shouldn’t be and maybe you’ve overstayed your welcome, or maybe it’s just run its course,” Zanni said. “With ‘Worst Day Ever,’ I didn’t want the song to be a bummer, so I put it around a poppy hook, but it has dark lyrics and that’s my juxtaposition.”
In his latest song, “The American Dream Ain’t Dead,” Zanni sings about the nation’s current political and societal challenges against a roots rock and hip-hop backdrop. It’s his personal political statement in response to the Trump administration.
“I’m not a Trump guy, and it’s like, ‘Make America Great Again,’ and I’m like, wait a minute, this country is pretty f*cking great already,” said Zanni, who’s added Rival Sons, Greta Van Fleet and Chris Stapleton to his list of current favorites. “The song talks about Detroit, the autoworkers and the farmers and has a Kid Rock-type feel to it by mixing an acoustic sound with a hip-hop beat.”
Zanni will share his extensive catalog of acoustic tunes at several upcoming metro Detroit area performances, including Oct. 11 and Oct. 18 at C.J. Mahoney’s, 3260 S. Rochester Road, in Rochester.
“I’m an old dude, I don’t have any illusions, I’m not trying to be a rock star, but it would be nice,” Zanni said. “Right now, I’m just mainly doing my acoustic thing in addition to Tops Cats Detroit. I’m pulling from a couple hundred songs at any given time, so I’m trying to read the room, see who likes what and go in that direction.”