Sunday, November 23, 2014

Black Violin schools 'em in Brooklyn

Black Violin co-founders
Kevin "Kev Marcus" Sylvester, left, and Wil "Wil B" Baptiste
(photo courtesy Black Violin)

The entire world, it seems, knew about Black Violin...except for me. I feel really bad about that. Here are a couple of Black guys from South Florida who became virtuosos of classical strings and then proceeded to turn all that upside down/inside out by folding in hip hop, blues, roots music, rock and more. No lumps in that batter, just streaming, massive energy that does not quit or let you just sit there stony-faced.

Photo: Colin Brennan Photography

Kevin "Kev Marcus" Sylvester (violin) and Wil "Wil B" Baptiste (viola, piano, vocals) and fellow band members have appeared everywhere from Harlem's Apollo Theater to Obama's Inaugural balls to three Super Bowls. They have accompanied Alicia Keys, opened for Kanye West and collaborated with Aerosmith and Aretha Franklin. They've played for our troops in Iraq and wowed a lot of school kids while advising them to "reach for the stars."

So it was time for my ears to join in and, happily, Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts set the stage, yesterday afternoon, with a brilliant, family-oriented show.

Black Violin, including bandmembers DJ TK on turntables and Nathaniel Stokes on drums,
at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, Brooklyn College
(photo:Tracey Wood Mendelsohn)

Completely informal and accessible, Kev Marcus and Wil B have great spirit. They also know how to rev up a crowd with a show that flows steady, hardly ever easing off the intensity. They allow no time to question the mix of genres or the unusual way instruments can be played. It's only too bad that the sound muffled quite a lot of their lyrics at the Brooklyn show, but here's the ultimate message, courtesy of....Yes, folks: Last year, they made a TED Talk! Check out the performance of "Virtuoso" at the end.

I promise I will not miss future Black Violin performances in New York, and neither should you. Keep up with Black Violin here.

For news on future events at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts--including appearances by Sweet Honey in the Rock, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, The Klezmatics, National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica and Eddie Palmieri's Latin Jazz Septet--click here.

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