Betzenzo is a jazz fusion instrumental band based in Cleveland, MS. Founded by Ryan Betz (keys) and Jeff Laurenzo (drums), this duo is making waves across the state of Mississippi with their genre-fusing music.
Betz and Laurenzo (Enzo) met in the marching band at Delta State University in 2005. The two became friends and eventually formed Betzenzo–a clever combination of their last names–and began performing their original compositions locally. Betzenzo’s music is a blend of influences from both members. Betz grew up learning traditional jazz and classical theory, and Enzo has explored various genres as he has played with other artists. These influences, along with alt-rock and hip-hop, form the fusion that is, in the words of Betz, “Interesting, unexpected, but fulfilling. Like a complex, rich black coffee.” It might be an acquired taste for some, but their talent is undeniable.
Betzenzo’s performances to date have been in mostly festival or bar settings, with some appearances at special events for GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi and even an opening slot for Trombone Shorty at the Bologna Performing Arts Center in Cleveland, Mississippi. Their laid back but engaging music makes for great entertainment at almost any event. The combined energy and creativity of the two is what drives their performances. What they present is accessible jazz: music that is complicated, but enjoyable. While not compromising their craft, they incorporate elements of rock and blues and even hip-hop to make their music more attractive to the average listener.
The group entered and won the 2016 Battle of the Bands in Jackson, MS, earning a slot at the 2017 Jackson Indie Music Week. Betzenzo performed at the up-and-coming festival two years in a row. In 2018, the band was featured on Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Amped & Wired series, a show that presents performances by emerging musical acts from the South. The segment featured Betzenzo’s 2018 Indie Music Week performance, which showcased four of their original songs. They kicked things off with “Rotel,” a rocking opener with a solid groove. “Fast One” is a jazzy number with just enough repetition and variation to keep listeners on their toes, while “Patience” displays their capacity for a tender ballad that ranges from gentle to wailing. Their final song, “And Again,” begins with heavy hip-hop influence and changes time to a more modern jazz feel. All in all, the show was an excellent review of the variety and creativity they bring to their music.
Currently, Betz and Enzo are recording an EP (set to release Summer 2021), composing new songs, “tightening up” and refreshing old songs, and building a new drum set. These kinds of projects seem perfect for a band that speaks of music as being “ingrained” in their personalities. As Betz puts it, “I enjoy…being surprised by the process of writing, playing, and sharing our songs.” “Surprising” seems like a good descriptor for Betzenzo; this “jam band” brings a fresh, modern feel to jazz. As tasting notes are unique to a complex, rich, black coffee, so is the blend of genres the duo employs to make the music their own. And like a surprisingly flavorful black coffee, Betzenzo’s music entices the listener to take another sip.