"I haven't received any large notoriety for it," says Moses Patrou, a Brooklyn-based musician who hails from Madison. Patrou is referring to his role as the lead vocalist for a Coca-Cola commercial airing last Sunday during Super Bowl XLI.
Known as "Video Game," the spot spoofs the Grand Theft Auto series as the first-person protagonist performs acts of random kindness amidst a grungy cityscape, eventually culminating in a mass choreographed "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"-style finale.
The voice starting about 20 seconds into the spot with the hook "You give a little love and it all comes back to you"? -- that's Moses Patrou.
Born in Nashville and named for the jazz/blues icon Mose Allison, Patrou moved to Madison as a young child, and grew up in the heart of the city's music scene with his father, the pianist John Chimes. While attending Malcom Shabazz City High School, he played with Clyde Stubblefield and went on to help form The Handphibians, a percussion group organized along the lines of Brazilian samba.
After graduating high school, he moved to Salvador da Bahia in Brazil, where he studied with Brazilian percussion master Giba Conceicao in the midst of Carnaval. Patrou subsequently returned to Madison, performing with the Handphibians, John Chimes and the Natural Blues Band, and joining up with Mama Digdown's Brass Band (MySpace), with whom he became immersed in the music of New Orleans and Mardi Gras. After several years with this group, Patrou and two other members of the band broke away to form the nucleus of the Youngblood Brass Band (MySpace), which fuses jazz and hip-hop with the New Orleans sound. He also started collaborating with Ben Sidran and Leo Sidran, and studied with the Cuban percussionist Roberto Viscaino of the Chucho Valdez Quartet, later spending several months in Cuba.
Following this second overseas trip to a musical wellspring, Patrou left Youngblood and moved to New York City on Sep. 1, 2001, where he started teaching djembe (West African) and Brazilian percussion at a charter school in Harlem. In New York, Patrou started playing with the Cuban group Conjunto Guantanamo, the New Orleans-style Sugartone Brass Band, and his own group, 202 Front.
These connections with New York, New Orleans and their catastrophic disasters this decade are important to Patrou. "A big part of what I do is through influence of New Orleans," he says, recalling recording in the city the week before Katrina made landfall. More details about Patrou's musical journey can be found at his MySpace pages (here and here).
As for the Super Bowl commercial, "the response has been great from my family and my friends," says Patrou. "It's a big gig, so I think people know that I've been working."
Here's the spot:
Debuting as a movie theater commercial at the tail end of last summer, the spot was Coca-Cola's most noticeable entry in the high-stakes Super Bowl advertising sweepstakes. It successfully combined a mirror-universe homage to the culturally iconic video game while sticking with the company's feel-good, get-along brand for the soda.
"For me to get a good gig like this is definitely a step in the right direction," explains Patrou, who says it may also be shown at upcoming high-profile TV broadcasts like the Academy Awards and episodes of American Idol.
Patrou is the second Madison musician in two years to contribute music to a Super Bowl commercial. The other one was the jazz musician Leo Sidran, who composed the music for the Nationwide Insurance spot featuring a rapidly aging Fabio in a Venetian canal. It is their history of collaboration and friendship that helped Patrou get the chance to land this opportunity.
Sidran was working as a producer for Patrou's solo work, and lined him up for a chance at the spot. "I've been recording an album with Leo Sidran," Patrou explains. "He was working on this project for one of the commercial studios he works for, they had heard some of the tracks on the album, and they asked, 'Why doesn't Moses try out for this Coca-Cola commercial?'"
Patrou goes on to explain that he was up against numerous other applicants, with singers trying out in New York, Los Angeles and London. "When it came out," he says, "I think a lot of people were just amazed, including myself."
The Super Bowl spot kicks off a busy spring and summer season for Patrou, who will be spending much of it touring abroad. Following a brief visit home to Madison over the weekend, he is setting off for Europe with the Youngblood Brass Band. Kicking off Friday with a show in Marburg, Germany, the group will swing through that country, Holland, France, Switzerland and Austria before returning for a homecoming show at the High Noon Saloon on Sunday, April 15. "They called me up and wanted me to go back out," Patrou says.
Following this, he will be gearing up for the release of his album Introducing Moses Patrou, released on the Sidrans' Nardis label, and may be traveling to Japan with them in the summer.
"The name of the game for me is trying to stay busy," says Patrou. "I've always been a dreamer, and this was kind of a dream come true in a lot of ways for me."