The Stage did it again, a full house and another amazing show with an international group last Friday night. For those who were paying attention (and paid only a $10 cover), there was a huge reward. Pity on those who weren’t paying attention. A fortunate few of us were treated to two shows, as owner Carlos Garcia, also hosted his Sound Theory Live radio show on WynwoodRadio.com the previous night with an interview as well as a preview of Black Violin.
Besides the fact that this group is affable and charismatic, there is an obvious brotherhood that is portrayed through their outstanding musicianship. South Floridians “Kev Marcus” Slyvester and “Wil B” Baptiste met at Dillard High School, an audition based public performing arts school, while playing in the orchestral program. The motivation for both was to attend the same school of the friends they grew up. Attending the school required practice of their art as well as an academic standard. “As time went on, we just got better and the better we got the more we liked it,” Kev adding enthusiastically, “and then we both got college scholarships, I went to FIU, Wil to FSU.” Subsequently, both are big proponents of performing arts accessibility for all kids shown by their commitment to doing endless school performances in hopes of inspiring other kids to find their inner passions. “…we realize how fortunate we were to have had access to an arts education.”
After the two classically trained violinists left college they got back together as “hip hop studio rats” to produce beats, before returning to their love for the classics and the natural progression to marry the two together. “We were boys from the ‘hood, hip hop was part of our upbringing, but so was classical,” explained Kev. Rounding out the band is also Dillard grad, cellist, “Joe Cello” Joseph Valbrun, spinning old school style “DJTK” Dwanye Dayal, and drummer, “Beatdown” Jermaine McQueen.
Their music is crossing barriers and blurring lines, “and because we’re crossing over genres, we don’t fit into a specific one, and we’re the biggest independent group no one has ever heard of.” This is part of the motivation for Black Violin to play small South Florida venues like The Stage, “we’ve played in over 36 countries and tour 8 months a year but people in our own hometown barely know who we are.” The First Family knows who they are, as they were invited to and played the Inaugural Ball where they had a personal meet and greet with the Prez. Also having appeared with many such as Gym Class Heroes, to Fat Joe, and collaborated with Kanye to Aretha and too many to mention, becoming a household name isn’t far off their horizon, however, they know it’s the classic, “be careful what you wish for,” says Wil B, who was seen hanging out in a baseball cap at the bar, unrecognized, prior to their set.
Unexpected is one way to describe the experience of their show. Seeing the baby-faced line-backer built Kev, in jeans and baseball cap handling his violin with the delicate precision of a true classical artist, along with the lean Wil B caressing his own viola with the same adoration, and hearing the beauty spill from their instruments was definitely a momentary mismatch of the senses. When the five of them began rising and falling in tandem collaboration with DJTK dropping in the beats, Beatdown coming in heavy with brilliant percussions, Joe Cello slipping in the melodramatic sigh of his instrument, the result was an astounding sound of musical gratification.
You know you’re seeing the real thing when the five invited two local musicians from Artofficial, Keith Cooper on sax and Ralf Valencia on bass, whom they have never played with before that moment, up on stage to jam. With no words spoken, you can believe they were speaking a language all their own, the result was album worthy.
Already successful for ten years, they realize that this is just the beginning as they know that they can perform before any audience and develop instant fans, from old to young, hip hop to classical, the world is their’s to conquer. With a 2007 self titled release as well as their most recent release, Classically Trained, on their own Di-Versatile Music Group label the days of hanging out at the bar unrecognized before their set are numbered.