This month at The New Victory, we welcome back Black Violin, a group whose funky fusion of music blends classical and modern genres. While Kev and Wil B, the creators of Black Violin, hail from Florida, it’s fitting that they are returning to New York—not only because they gained fame at The Apollo, but because New York City has always attracted a mosaic of cultures, allowing it to serve as a home to the development of innovative music genres and styles.
Kev and Wil B find inspiration in the plethora of musical genres that emerged from the streets of New York, but they credit the work of legendary violinist Stuff Smith for their unique sound. Smith, born in Portsmouth, Ohio in 1909, was the preeminent jazz violinist of the Swing Era. After moving to New York in 1935, he held a regular gig at the Onyx Club and also performed with Coleman Hawkins and younger musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Sun Ra. While in New York, Smith performed at what is considered the first outdoor jazz festival, the 1938 Carnival of Swing on Randall's Island. His final album, entitled Black Violin, so inspired and influenced the young Kev Marcus and Wil B that they eventually named their band in honor of the man who had shown them that there were no limits to what the violin could do.
In addition to jazz, New York City has long been a thriving home for rock and the blues, but it is the actual birthplace of disco, punk rock, Salsa music and, one of Black Violin’s most notable influences, hip-hop. As both a type of music and a cultural phenomenon, hip-hop was born during the 1970s when block parties became increasingly popular in the city, particularly among youth in the Bronx. Block parties featured DJs who played popular genres of music, like funk or soul music, but isolated and repeated percussive sections to encourage dancing. Hip-hop is integral to Black Violin’s sound, just as it has been to the cultural landscape of New York.
With their emphasis on “thinking outside the box,” Black Violin fits right in to a city whose musical talents have repeatedly evolved to changing tastes, times and cultures over the course of many decades. With the convergence of so many genres in one city, Black Violin perfectly blends the discipline of classically trained artists with the collaborative improvisation of jazz and the rhythms of hip-hop. It isn’t surprising, then, that a Black Violin performance is difficult to categorize because it is truly a celebration of so many types of music.
To learn more about Kev Marcus, Wil B and the things that inspire them most, check out this video: