Battle Of The Boroughs Hits Queens
By Joe Marvilli
Since Queens is the most diverse area in the world, it contains a large assortment of different musicians. Now, the best of these genres are coming together to battle it out for the chance to be the winner of the Battle of the Boroughs.
(Top) Gentleman Brawlers; (bottom) Neo Blues Maki
In its fourth year, the Battle of the Boroughs is a music competition where artists face off in individual battles in each of the City's five boroughs. With Brooklyn's competition having already taken place, Queens is next up with their contest set for March 1 at 7 p.m. at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, 44 Charlton St., Manhattan.
Seven artists from Queens are joining the 64 contestants overall, each vying for a spot in the final stage of the competition, labeled as The Ultimate Battle. That will take place on June 21.
Winners will be selected through votes from both the live studio audience and the online audience watching via a live telecast. Voting will be available online at www.wnyc.org/thegreenespace and via mobile phone by texting vote codes to 69866.
Five of the bands will be chosen after the evening's votes are tallied and fans will have a chance to vote for another week to narrow it down to one Queens artist, who will be chosen on March 11.
The Ultimate Grand Prize winner will receive a chance to perform at the Apollo Theater in Harlem during its Amateur Night. They will also win an exclusive concert at The Greene Space with a live video webcast, a professional, multi-track recording session and a Tekserve package including iPads, a professional photo shoot and a produced music video.
(Left) Radio Jarocho; (right) Nicole Zuraitis
Each of the seven Queens artists has their own unique style and personality.
Pop rock band The Dirty Gems started in 2007 when Raycee Jones (vocals), Ulises Amaya (bass) and Cam Underhill (synth, vocals) were chosen by their college professor to form a jazz combo as part of a course at Hofstra University. Soon after, Mills (piano), Jack Goode (drums) and Gary Heimbauer (guitar) were added to the mix. The Astoria-based group plans to release their second EP in the near future.
"We don't just want people to dance, we don't just want people to cry, we don't just want to make money and we don't just want to win battles. We want everyone to feel everything they've ever felt before while at one of our shows or while listening to our music," Goode said.
Having formed in 2011, the Ridgewood-based Gentleman Brawlers moves between the lines of strong songwriting, theatrics and sonic experimentation, through the fusion of ambient and psychedelic melodies of guitarists Jim Thompson and Matt Walsh, the Latin funk polyrhythms of bassist Alexis Arkus-Duntov and drummer David Ashkenazy, and vocal combination and singer Becca Fox's moving stage presence.
The band's debut EP, "We Were Made For These Times," was released in December.
"People seem to be connecting with it, and to us that's what music culture is: a connection, a way of articulating the most important qualities of what it's like to live in the world day to day," Walsh said.
Although Neo Blues Maki mostly performs outside of Queens, the band calls Astoria home. The group formed when bassist Soshi Uchida moved to the City from Japan. He ran into two friends and fellow musicians he knew from his home country, singer Kayo Yoshioka and keyboardist/arranger Junya Yamaguchi. The result is a sound that fuses Yoshioka's enka (sentimental Japanese ballads) singing with progressive rock/jazz fusion instrumentation.
(Left) Cavelle-Nell Romeo; (right): Sean Nowell
"If we were to be worthy of winning, I think it would be due to our good musicianship, uniqueness of style, entertaining showmanship, and colorful musicality," Uchida said.
Sean Nowell is another journeyman. Having grown up with the blues and gospel in Alabama, the tenor saxophonist moved to New York where he was steeped in world rhythms concepts. The now Astoria-based artist put together his band, the Kung Fu Masters, as a way to express the creative experiences he has had around the world. The group hopes to unite humanity through positive expressions of the human spirit with Martial Arts, Jazz/Funk Music, Breakdancing and Video Projection.
"I'm just happy to be sharing good feelings through the beautiful and expressive avenue of jazz music!" he said.
Nowell will have a CD release show on March 15 at 7 p.m. at The Bitter End in Manhattan.
Radio Jarocho lets you know what type of music they play right in their band name. The five-piece performs son jarocho, a regional folk dance style from Veracruz, Mexico. The members, which include Gabriel Guzman on jarana and vocals, Julia del Palacio on bailadora and vocals, Juan Carlos Marin on requinto and vocals, Emmanuel Huitzil on marimbol and Carlos Cuestas on leona and vocals, are based in Astoria, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst.
The band released its first album, "Café Café," in May 2012.
"We also found a great audience in [Queens'] neighborhoods, since there is a lot of Hispanics who understood our lyrics and not just the music," Guzman said. "The fact that we had an audience from the beginning made us gain confidence as a band."
For Cavelle-Nell Romeo, singing has been a part of her life since she was five years old. Born in the Caribbean twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago, the R&B singer was strongly influenced by her mother, who was also a singer. Now based on St. Albans, Romeo's musical tastes include gospel, jazz, soul and afro-Caribbean, all of which come through in her songs. She has performed at the Apollo Theater and sang the National Anthem at Madison Square Garden. Her first single, titled "Your Time To Shine," was recently released.
"I sing because I am passionate about it and want to share my talent with the world," she said.
Nicole Zuraitis is another singer who started at a young age. From the moment she sang Disney's "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," music was never far from her mind. A few years ago, the singer/songwriter settled in Astoria and formed a jazz trio, with various members moving in and out of the group.
Zuraitis just released her sophomore album, "Pariah Anthem," and will have a CD release party at Rockwood Music Hall on April 14.
"I self-produced both my albums, wrote the music, book all my gigs and tours, hire my musicians and work tirelessly as a pianist and jazz vocalist in event bands, restaurants and bars almost every day of the week," she said.
Reach Reporter Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.