Music: Ecstatic Music Festival ft. Ethel, Kaki King, and John King

by Eric J. Davis

Magazine     >    Reviews

Written by Eric J. Davis for THE ARTISTS FORUM MAGAZINE
Edited by
David Andrako

4.5 out of 5 stars


NEW YORK, NY (Thursday, March 26, 2015) The March 21st performance at the Merkin Concert Hall was part of the Kaufman Music Center‘s innovative Ecstatic Music Festival. And, ecstatic it was! When describing the musical group ETHEL, using words like electrifying and exuberant would be putting it mildly. The playing of this string quartet is truly a tour de foursome to be reckoned with. Add in composer and guitar virtuoso Kaki King and composer, guitarist, violist (and now bona fide oud player) John King and the stage literally ignited in what can only be called an iconoclastic symphony of strings. Their exceptional style of music was perfectly matched by their exceptional artistry.

(l to r): Corin Lee, Kaki King, Kip Jones, and John King perform live at Merkin Concert Hall
(l to r): Ralph Farris, Corin Lee, Kaki King, John King, Kip Jones, and Dorothy Lawson perform live at Merkin Concert Hall

ETHEL (Ralph Farris, viola; Dorothy Lawson, cello; Kip Jones, violin; and newest member Corin Lee, violin) has been shaking up the music world for nearly two decades. They started the show by performing Hardwood – the 1997 composition of their first and favorite composer, John King, and the impetus for the creation of ETHEL. The “guitar god” Kaki King displayed her outstanding guitar wizardry with the selection Trying to Speak from her latest album The Neck is a Bridge to the Body. But the standout performances were Jay Red composed by Kip Jones, Sammich by Ralph Farris, and More Muddy by John King and Kaki King. The entire program was, as Farris described it, a “groove-based, blues-infused frolicking good time.” Whether picking or bowing on their myriad of acoustic and electric stringed instruments, this trio of performers is each a genre-bending powerhouse in their own right.

Kaki King on guitar at Merkin Concert Hall

The evening was given a further depth of vitality by host John Schaefer of WNYC‘s Soundcheck. His short interviews with almost every performer were sprinkled throughout the concert, and were humorous and anecdotal insights into their various works and collaborations.

Want to hear ETHEL live and in person? Then, make it a point to visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The string quartet is resident ensemble at the Great Hall Balcony Bar. What better place to drink in their progressive take on music than in this classical setting?

For more information about ETHEL, visit:
For more information about Kaki King, visit:

The music of ETHEL and Kaki King is currently available for purchase on iTunes.

For more about the Ecstatic Music Festival, visit:
For more about the Kaufman Music Center – Merkin Hall, visit:

Musicians take a bow at Merkin Concert Hall, with WNYC’s John Schafer (left)

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