Service of Music

December 6th, 2012

Categories: Music


I attended a concert in a Westchester synagogue last weekend. I know what you’re thinking–but I bet you’re wrong about the music, featured ensemble and audience. We tapped our toes, drummed our fingers and often clapped and cheered mid-set to acknowledge a magnificent solo and marvel at the expertise of the quintet’s pianist, bassist, drummer, saxophonist and percussionist.

There was a Jewish undercurrent to the music, not surprising as the host was The Jewish Community Council of Mount Vernon, yet both the ensemble and audience represented a rainbow of backgrounds and demographics. I met a four and a 90-year-old as well as men and women of all ages in between.

In mid-concert the Mayor of Mount Vernon, Ernie Davis, spoke, referring to Dave Brubeck in his remarks–that’s how good the music and musicians were. Most politicians dip in and out of events yet Mayor Davis stayed to the end.

l to r.: Michael Hashim saxophone; Bobby Sanabria, drums; Matthew Gonzalez percussion; Frank Wagner, bass; Eugene Marlow, Leader/Keyboard

l to r.: Michael Hashim saxophone; Bobby Sanabria, drums; Matthew Gonzalez percussion; Frank Wagner, bass; Eugene Marlow, Leader/Keyboard

What kept the Mayor and the rest of the audience in their seats-but barely as it was hard not to dance to the music–was Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble. The New York City Jazz Record described the ensemble as “a cross-cultural collaboration that spins & grooves” because Marlow adds jazz, Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian beats to his interpretations of Judaic melodies.

Who are these magical musicians?

Eugene Marlow, Ph.D. [below, left] is the Ensemble’s founder/arranger and keyboardist. An award-winning composer, producer, presenter, author, journalist, and educator–he teaches at Baruch College–he has composed 200+ jazz and classical pieces for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, heritageensemblegenemarlow3and jazz big band. Marlow has also produced eight critically acclaimed CDs of original compositions/arrangements on the MEII Enterprises label that collectively have been distributed to radio stations in over 22 countries. A charming director who continuously credits his collaborators and makes the audience laugh, Marlow appears to get lost in the music while contributing to the beat on his keyboard and expertly leading the quintet. His background is British, Polish, German and Russian.



Drummer Bobby Sanabria, a percussionist, composer, arranger, recording artist, producer, filmmaker, conductor, educator, historian, and multiple Grammy nominee is a Nuyorican, New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent, as is Mathew Gonzalez.

Bobby Sanabria, drums and Matthew Gonzalez, percussion

Bobby Sanabria, drums and Matthew Gonzalez, percussion

Sanabria’s recording and performing experience includes work with such legendary figures as Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Henry Threadgill, and the Godfather of Afro-Cuban Jazz, Mario Bauzá. He pushes himself almost beyond the possible exhibiting remarkable, cliff-hanging hand and foot coordination and rhythm.

Gonzalez was raised in a musical family. His grandfather, Benny Ayala, is a seasoned composer, folklorist and mask maker. Early on Gonzalez was immersed in an environment filled with the Afro-Caribbean beats of Puerto Rican folkloric music. At 11 he launched his formal training at the Harbor Conservatory where he learned Latin percussion. His hands beat his conga drums faster than a woodpecker drilling a tree.

Alto and soprano saxophonist Michael Hashim‘s background is Lebanese. A composer for film, TV, and dance, Hashim can also be heard on his albums. He has led his own quartet since 1979 and has collaborated for years with pianist Mike Ledonne. A longtime member of the Widespread Jazz Orchestra, Hashim has also worked with a number of great blues men, including Muddy Waters, Sonny Greer, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. When Hashim enters a room, the lights seem brighter. He translates his merry and upbeat vibes through his saxophones.

Bassist Frank Wagner, whose background is Eastern European, has performed all over the world in a host of musical settings, including all-star jazz bands, Broadway shows, national tours, recording sessions, and classical orchestras and has taught music throughout his career. The Phi Beta Kappa currently teaches composition and jazz theory at Queens Community College in New York City. His fingers and bow squeeze out an extraordinary range of sounds and rhythms from his bass.

Holidays are an ideal time to listen to live music–it will put you in a good mood. [Work, shop and wrap another time.] Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble will play at Baruch on December 13 at 7 pm–I plan to go–at the Bronx Music Heritage Center on December 20th and for other engagements, check out the performance section of his website. You can also bring home the music in a CD. Link to a snippet of the sound and hear Marlow’s melodious voice.

How does live music make you feel? Do you have a favorite ensemble, orchestra or soloist? Do you have a question for Eugene Marlow or any of the other musicians?


12 Responses to “Service of Music”

  1. David Reich Said:

    Nice write-up. Glad you were there, and glad you introduced me to Gene Marlow a year ago.

  2. EAM Said:

    Music has always held a special place for me. As a child, I remember walking with my Dad (when Garden State Plaza was outside) to Sam Goody’s. I was allowed to pick out a record (early memories include Billy Joel or Elton John) and my Dad would gravitate towards the classical section. He used to take me to classical concerts on Friday nights with the promise of a Friendly’s sundae to follow. I didn’t always love the music but it helped me develop an appreciation for it. I am a huge music lover, it’s a great way to relax or elevate your mood. I should also mention that the Greenwich Village Orchestra ( comprised of volunteer musicians, and they’ll be having their Annual Family concert on Jan. 13.

  3. Barbara Jacksier Said:

    Thanks for the introduction to group. Music is one of my passions. I am on the boards of Friends of Music at George Mason University and Lyric Opera Virginia. I also work as a volunteer ambassador for the Metropolitan Opera’s HD broadcasts. Each year for Hanukkah, I give myself a gift of music by making donations to my favorite arts organizations. Without public support, there will only be the sounds of silence.

  4. DManzaluni Said:

    Interesting that you shold be asking this question and i now want to hear this ensenble

    I do have fav artists, Savina Yannatou and Esther Lamandier, and by coincidence they record multi-cultural music from sources as diverse as 14th Century Ligurian music, aramaic music and jewish music. Often on the same CD I have a search out on them on ebay but sadly for some unknown reason, neither seem to record much any more. Savina Yannatou once took pains to record a CD of the special music of the Thessalonika jews who were all murdered by the Nazis in 1943 and has the most unbelievable range you could conceivably imagine!

    Esther Lamandier has that sort of dream like voice that once you listen to it, you cant stop.

    There is an article out there on the subject of Beethoven’s liver pickled in Formaldehyde which someone found, examined closely for cirrhosis and used the results as some sort of rationale for the music. Not sure if it is on line but the title was “Go Easy Mr Beethoven, That Was Your Fifth!”

    He was certainly requesting wine from his publisher on his death-bed and remonstrating when it arrived late, possibly commenting that it was a pity he wouldnt get a tip unless it were to come short-order!

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What a lovely memory! My mom took me to children’s concerts on Saturday mornings, my dad often listened to wqxr, the NYC Classical music station and my husband introduced me to opera. Where I learned to love jazz is a mystery.

    Thanks for the lead to the Greenwich Village Orchestra and its January concert.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are right to worry about the arts. Your gift to yourself is a gift to all of us as is your participation on the boards of arts organizations. Thank you.

    Years ago during a particularly stressful point in my life a friend said something quite banal that struck a chord and still helps me out: “No matter what, there will always be music.” I still think of it when things look more than gloomy and the message is like a mental suction cup to help pull me out of the blues.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’ve had many conversations with friends about the association between heavy drinking and creativity. I came to the conclusion that I’m doomed as if I drink too much I just get sleepy, not creative. Lucky I’m neither a musician nor a creative writer!

  8. Simon Carr Said:

    For some reason, your post made me think Orpheus Chamber Orchestra rehearsals that I’ve attended, and the pleasure it gave me to see how that leaderless group of musicians, through mutual respect and natural graciousness to one another, cooperate so effectively to produce such sensitive readings of so many different pieces.

    That led me to think of the remarkable performances I heard by both the Vienna and Berlin ensembles in the days before public opinion forced them to accept female members, and how the addition even one highly accomplished player who was not a man, changed something intangible about both orchestras, and to my ear, not for the better.

    Then I thought of Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, both very great singers in their time, and for that matter, for all time, both of whom I heard sing decades ago. One was reputedly notoriously selfish and difficult; the other, and I can attest to this personally, most gracious and charming.

    Lastly, the greatest vocalist, without question, that I ever heard perform in person, again decades ago, was notoriously brutish, egotistical, lazy and sloppy, but God could he sing!

    The moral of the story: All kinds of people can make all kinds of music, and thank goodness they can. It is the one true blessing that all mankind possesses.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Gosh Simon, do you really mean that the ensembles were spoiled because women joined them? I’ve heard a woman sing successfully with the Heritage Ensemble—she didn’t spoil the synergy, beat or effect of the quintet. That statement doesn’t jive with your conclusion that “All kinds of people can make all kinds of music,” unless I misunderstood you. According to you, where the Berlin and Vienna ensembles were concerned, women might make music, but not so well. Grump.

  10. Joan Marbit Said:

    I too support the musical arts, in particular one artist, my son, who is at the University of Maryland where he is getting his Doctorate. In addition, he is studying with the principal bassoonist of the National Symphony.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Here here! Good for you and congratulations to your son.

  12. Lucrezia Said:

    I enjoy most music with the exception of Rap – but if I live long enough, there may be something to like as well. If grievously upset or frazzled, several hours of Bach has curative powers. If feeling upbeat, there’s Country. If dragging myself outside to a live performance, a favorite opera beckons, and etc. Life without music would be grim — to some of us at least!

Leave a Reply

Clicky Web Analytics