Performing Arts

Black Violin shatters classical music stereotypes

Wil B., left, and Kev Marcus of Black Violin
Wil B., left, and Kev Marcus of Black Violin

It’s not every night that you get to hear a hip-hop DJ go to town on Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.”

That was just one of the highlights of the performance by Black Violin, a combo rooted in classical music that shattered boundaries in its concert Friday at Casa Mañana.

The band is made up of Kev Marcus on electric violin, Wil B. playing a viola equipped with a pickup, drummer Jermaine McQueen and DJ Dwayne Dayal. And their collective efforts at Casa demonstrated a fresh and open approach to music that blends old genres with current forms to fabulous effect.

“We are about breaking stereotypes,” Marcus told the large and enthusiastic crowd of about 700.

There was a double meaning in that proclamation. The Miami-based band thumbs its nose at traditional notions of how classical music should be presented. And, because the band members are African-American, it makes a statement about race and classical music.

But Friday’s show, which was part of the group’s Unity Tour, was more about music than messages. The quality of the string players’ work was impressive on every number, whether they were reinventing Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, or doing one of their originals, like the easy ballad “Magic.”

But the song that appeared to receive the strongest response of the evening was the group’s gorgeous cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” which featured some outstanding vocals from Wil B.

It was an exciting and eclectic night of music, where the DJ sampled Bruno Mars and Beethoven with equal ease, and the string players bounced all over the music map with glee. And there could have been more of it.

The band played a 90-minute set without an intermission, so the audience wasn’t cheated. But two halves and an intermission might have been a better approach, because Black Violin is not going to run out of material.

It has about 400 years’ worth of music to fall back on.