The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - LIVE MUSIC -

first big break came in 2004 when they won the fa­mous “Show­time at the Apollo” tal­ent con­test. That led to gigs with Ali­cia Keys and Puff Daddy and a per­for­mance at Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sec­ond in­au­gu­ra­tion.

Per­haps the group’s big­gest fans, how­ever, are school­child­ren and teach­ers. The high-energy con­certs have in­tro­duced thou­sands of kids to clas­si­cal music in a way that speaks to them. Just as po­tent are their lessons about cre­ativ­ity and be­ing true to your­self. “Ul­ti­mately, it’s not even about music,” says Mar­cus. “That’s just the tool we use. It’s about what can you do that no­body has ever seen be­fore. You can be a chef or a foot­ball star or what­ever — just find your thing, and do it in a way no one else done it.”

See­ing things from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive is at the heart of Black Vi­o­lin’s re­cently re­leased ma­jor-la­bel de­but, “Stereo­types.” The group was al­ready deep into pro­duc­tion on a third al­bum, which in­cludes guest ap­pear­ances by Robert Glasper and Me­lanie Fiona, when in­spi­ra­tion for the ti­tle came to them in a ho­tel el­e­va­tor. As they were head­ing out to the stu­dio with vi­o­lins in tow, a woman on the el­e­va­tor asked what was in the cases. When they told her, she asked what kind of music they played, since “ob­vi­ously you guys don’t play clas­si­cal.”

“It’s kind of the stereo­type we al­ways get,” says Mar­cus. “I’m a 6-foot-2, 260-pound big black dude with a beard. I look like I should be run­ning a bar­be­cue pit in Mem­phis where in­stead I’m play­ing clas­si­cal vi­o­lin the way you’ve never seen it. Our mis­sion is to­tally to break stereo­types and think out­side of the box.”

The re­sult­ing ti­tle track sets the tone for a record that brings a new­found se­ri­ous­ness to Black Vi­o­lin’s mes­sage of open­ness and ac­cep­tance. But “Stereo­types” is no stri­dent polemic. And the duo still has its trade­mark mu­si­cal di­ver­sity on dis­play, with cov­ers of Aaron Co­p­land’s “Shaker” melody from “Ap­palachian Spring,” The Verve’s “Bit­ter­sweet Sym­phony” and a ver­sion of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Walk On By” that takes its cues from Stax star Isaac Hayes’ 1969 ver­sion.

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