Welcome to Masorti Canada - MERCAZ-Canada

The Canadian home of Masorti/Conservative Judaism in Israel.

Jewish Music Week

MERCAZ-Canada and CFMJ are thrilled to present

Sunday, May 26, 2024
Borochov Cultural Centre
272 Codsell Avenue, Toronto, Ontario


Co-founded by African-American jazz pianist Warren Byrd, and Jewish-American jazz bassist David Chevan in 1998, The Afro-Semitic Experience is a band that combines an eclectic array of styles, sophisticated musicianship, good songwriting, deep grooves, and years of friendship with a simple message: Unity in the Community. Their music has been heard around the United States—the group has performed at festivals, in churches, synagogues, colleges,  and wherever people come together to share their love and respect for community.  Their performances are celebrations of community and culture that invariably get audiences up and dancing.

With their unique instrumentation, solid grooves, and their ability to get an audience on its feet, The Afro-Semitic Experience has reimagined the jazz concert.   This is a band beyond category—performing an intricate tapestry of spiritual, world-beat, funk, jazz, cantorial, gospel, salsa, swing . . . soul-driven music. Their concerts are celebrations where they play great music, tell stories, and offer a positive and meaningful message: Unity in the Community.

Their recording projects have garnered critical acclaim and made numerous best-of lists. They are currently developing their newest work, My Feet Began to Pray. This will be a new collection of original compositions inspired by the social and racial justice movements, along with a few classic songs from the back in the day. All imbued with passion, groove, blowing, dancing, and soaring freely in sound and spirit.

Members of The Afro-Semitic Experience

Warren Byrd — Piano / Composer

David Chevan  — Bass / Composer

Will Bartlett — Saxophone

Alvin Benjamin Carter, Jr — Percussion

Orice Jenkins — Guitar / Vocals

Saskia Laroo — Trumpet

Jocelyn Pleasant — Percussion

Pianist/Composer Warren Byrd is a Hartford, Connecticut Hartford, Connecticut native with an international touring schedule after many fruitful years playing Jazz throughout Southern New England and New York. Born in 1965, the youngest in a family of sixteen, he grew up in a musically fecund world. His experiences with performing began with singing in the church choir with his older siblings and led to rich performing adventures during his teen years, exposing him to the vast past and present of musical ideas. By the time he'd been awarded a full scholarship at for Classical Voice at Hartt College of Music, he'd decided he wanted to be a jazz artist. Through listening to and absorbing an eclectic continuum of music, he formulated his approach to improvisation. He has journeyed with many groups and performers in jazz, r & b, world, latin, pop, etc., as well as Dance and Theatre. A short list of performers would include Archie Shepp, Eddie Henderson, Saskia Laroo, Steve David, David Chevan, Mixashawn Lee Rozie, Kenny Hamber, Alvin Carter, Charles Tolliver and many more.  Along with David Chevan, in 1999 they founded as an expansion of their duo project the celebrated group the Afro-Semitic Experience, with whom they have recorded several albums, including the soon to be, “Our Feet Began To Pray”. Other recent efforts include the 2020 re-release of his album “Truth Raised Twice” and notable collaborations with his wife, Saskia Laroo, such as her most recent release, “Trumpets Around The World” and their live-streamed “Feelgood Fridays” series produced midst the pandemic.


Bassist and composer, David Chevan’s open-minded passion for music has led him to explore a wide range of musical realms from singing in synagogue, to playing bass in Jazz, Gospel, Polka, Klezmer, and Italian wedding bands.  His musical training is as a jazz bassist and much of his compositional thinking and experience derives from that experience. In most every other sense he is a self-taught composer and arranger. As a composer he has an ongoing interest in writing musical pieces that explore the intersection between vernacular cultural music practice and jazz. His compositions and arrangements include writing music for the Afro-Semitic Experience, and the Nu Haven Kapelye, a 30-piece klezmer Orchestra and Big Band. He also composes liturgical jazz compositions melding jazz improvisational practice with Jewish cantorial modes. His works for theater include writing the libretto and composing the music for “Letters from the Affair,” a music theater piece that mixed opera, cantorial and jazz elements together and creating a completely original musical Klezmer Purim Spiel. In addition to performing duos with pianist Warren Byrd and co-leading The Afro-Semitic Experience, he directs, plays bass, composes, and writes arrangements for the Nu Haven Kapelye, and for Bassology, his swinging jazz group. He has recorded 9 CDs with the Afro-Semitic Experience. In 2016, he wrote, arranged, and produced “What’s Nu” a CD of music for the Nu Haven Kapelye. That recording has roughly 30 musicians on many of the tracks.


Will Bartlett has over forty years of experience as a professional musician and music educator. He studied with Jimmy Heath and Lew Tabackin and performed with Frank Foster, Lee Konitz, Slide Hampton, and Roswell Rudd among many others. Will practices Buddhism in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh where his dharma name is Compassionate Sound of the Heart.


Alvin Benjamin Carter, Jr., a multi-percussionist, is a husband, father and minister of The Gospel and is a mainstay in the Greater Hartford arts community. Known as “Babafemi” to his friends, his involvement in the community is multifaceted. He works as an educator, organizer, performer, consultant, adviser, and motivator. He is an original “Artists Collective Baby,” having his artistic beginnings in drums, dance and acting at The Artists Collective. He later taught drums at “The Collective, as did his father, Alvin Carter, Sr. His diverse music experience includes but is not limited to jazz, R&B, blues, Latin jazz, gospel, and world beat. As a performer he has been the drummer with The Afro-Semitic Experience, The Kenny Hamber Show, The Crystal Blue Project, Don DePalma and Friends, Tony Harrington, and Touch, Charmagne, People of Goodwill, La Orquestra Espada, Edwin West and many, many others. He currently leads LEGACY: The Keepers of Tradition and The Alvin Carter Project. He has also been a lead drummer for Sankofa Kuumba Cultural Arts Consortium where he plays west Afrikan and afro-caribbean drums.


Guitarist and vocalist Orice Jenkins is a recording artist, performer, educator, and genealogy researcher from Hartford, Connecticut. His music has been featured in Jazz Times magazine and charted at #11 on the iTunes Jazz chart. Jenkins has performed extensively across all genres, including Hip-Hop, R&B, Jazz, Gospel, and Classical music. He serves as the Executive Director of Música Franklin, an afterschool music program for youth in Franklin County, Massachusetts.

Jenkins is also the author of Chesta’s Children, a genealogy blog that explores his deep stateside roots as a descendant of enslaved Americans. He ties his passions together in his lectures and historical presentations, commenting on the relationships between racism, culture, art, and family.


Saskia Laroo is a trumpet player who is hailed by American public and press at large as "Lady Miles of Europe", is one of the few women trumpet stylists, blowing for more than three decades. Born in Amsterdam, she began playing the trumpet at age 8, never dreaming of becoming a professional musician. That all changed when Saskia turned 18, after briefly majoring in Mathematics at the University of Amsterdam switched her focus to a career in music. She worked extensively in various groups from this point, primarily on upright bass, though eventually, on both bass and trumpet. Saskia Laroo combines today’s music by uncontrived romps into new styles, eagerly limned as "nu jazz" or "swinging’ body-music"--a vivacious blend of hip-hop, jazz, salsa, funk reggae, and world, that many other artists dare not venture. Her artistry and her groove ring vibrantly and free on her recordings journeying us through the music she has absorbed and plays from heart and soul.


Jocelyn Pleasant is a musician and educator, originally from Bloomfield, Connecticut. Her studies in percussion began at age 9 in her school band program, and then branched out to the Hartt School Community Division and the Artists Collective (Hartford, CT). She continued her studies in Washington, DC, as a Presidential Arts Scholar at The George Washington University from 2000-2004. Currently, Jocelyn is completing her work towards a PhD in Ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University. As an educator, Jocelyn has been on staff with many schools and programs including the Artists Collective, Green Street Arts Center (Middletown, CT), Center for Creative Youth (Middletown, CT), Institute for the Musical Arts (Goshen, MA) and The Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts (Hartford, CT), teaching theory, percussion, and African/Cultural Rhythms to students of all levels. Jocelyn's performance credits on drum set and percussion are extensive and showcase her versatility and ability to play many genres of music (jazz, blues, West African, funk, reggae, Latin, etc.). She is currently the percussionist for The Afro Semitic Experience and drummer for Orice Jenkins, both based in Connecticut. She also leads her own band, The Lost Tribe, which fuses traditional West African music and percussion with other styles of music.

We gratefully acknowledge our generous event sponsors for this evening's performance


Stan Greenspan


Judy Schwalm

Beth Tzedec

Barbara Kingstone

Jacob Burstein

Stephen Agnew

Men's Club

Masorti Canada - MERCAZ CANADA
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