Black Violin treated concert goers at the Ordway in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 17, 2022 with hip hop, fusion, jazz, and pop covers all played on violin, viola, a Korg KRONOS keyboard. Photo: Courtesy of Black Violin
Black Violin treated concert goers at the Ordway in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 17, 2022 with hip hop, fusion, jazz, and pop covers all played on violin, viola, a Korg KRONOS keyboard. Photo: Courtesy of Black Violin

The world changed for a lot of people this year on June 17th. Quite possibly the trajectory for at least a handful of kids has taken a divergent path and they will look back on this evening as the moment when it all started.

The catalyst for this change happened on stage at The Ordway in St. Paul, Minnesota when Black Violin, comprised of two guys each with a small stringed instrument in their hands  showed the rest of us how wild and exciting and cool a violin can be.

Wil B and Kev Marcus took their years of classical training and turned it all on its head. The audience was treated to hip hop, fusion, jazz, and pop covers all played on violin, viola, a Korg KRONOS keyboard that rivaled a grand piano, a drum set wielded by Nat Stokes, and DJ SPS spinning discs.

The quintet didn’t simply play orchestral music in a contemporary style. With a fog machine, strobe lights, flashing colors, and the thumb’s-up to take lots of selfies plus tag them with #blackviolin we found ourselves in a strange—but it worked—mash-up of musical genres and unusual juxtapositions.

Highlight of the first half of Black Violin’s set was their hit from Take the Stairs, a song called Dreamers. Wil B’s vocals soared over the impressive, yet deafening percussion, then gave way to Liston Gregory III’s incredible keyboard solo that sounded like a Steinway was on stage and not a synthesizer.

There was no intermission in this over 90-minute show. The second half of their set began with the duo playing an unadorned Shaker melody, Simple Gifts. They slowly jazzed it up, transforming into other musical styles and adding in the other musicians.

Kev Marcus announced, “In order to keep it fresh for ourselves and to offer the audience a unique experience this is the part where we just make it up.” This thrilled the concert-goers and  the band launched into more polyphonic, almost chaotic music, yet exciting and energizing. Again, Wil B and Kev’s skills were matched by the stunning performance of Gregory on the keyboard.

The seats were nearly full at the Ordway with dozens of them filled by young children who doubtless were seeing for the first time the flexibility of a violin. Kev Marcus shouted out that he and Wil B earned full-scholarships to college with their instruments. Reminding the students and parents that it’s not only a football or basketball that can provide a full-ride to higher education.

Black Violin is all about breaking stereotypes and thinking outside the box. Their performance lived up to the performers’ goals and surpassed the audience’s expectations.

About Susan Budig

Susan is based in Minneapolis and reports on general assignments for Mshale with a focus on entertainment. In addition to reporting, she is also a writer, poet, teacher and coach.

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