Church Avenue Sessions




*A Monthly Music Series in Kensington, Brooklyn*

       at  Flatbush Jewish Center

327 East 5th Street (@ Church Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11218       

Featuring Tomas Rodriguez trio and AFARA

Thursday, Feb 22 at 7:30pm

Cost: $10/adults, $5/kids under 16


Guitarist Tomas Rodriguez has been praised as “playing guitar with a passionate originality, with an individual touch, drawing from the musical heart of the Latin world.” The folk and classical traditions of Spain and South America are richly evident in Rodriguez’ playing, but he transmutes them into a sound clearly, fervently his own. His original compositions and his collaborations with leading musicians in New York City’s world music scene create an engaging groove, touching harmonies and a mesmerizing exploration of the guitar’s rich background in the music of the Americas, Europe and Africa.

Such diverse inspiration is perhaps rooted in his unusual background. Born in Washington D.C., of a Spanish father and a mother from the Appalachian region of Virginia, Rodriguez grew up in New York, New Jersey and Boise, Idaho. As a child he was inspired by his father’s record collection, which included everything from Beethoven to the boleros of Latin crooner Lucho Gatica. He learned to play electric guitar by ear from Jimi Hendrix records, and later came to study classical guitar with Sharon Isbin at the Manhattan School of Music.

Rodriguez’ guitar has captivated audiences nationally and internationally. He has performed concerts at International Festival of the Guitar in Lima, Peru, in New York’s Brooklyn Museum, Merkin Hall, Trinity Church, the New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts (NJPAC), the World Expressions Series at Boise State University and the University of Virginia. He regularly performs steady engagements at the St. Regis, Ritz Carlton and Peninsula Hotels in Manhattan.

Mr. Rodriguez is also a dedicated music educator. He founded and directed an innovative after-school guitar program at one of New York’s largest Latino social service organizations, utilizing music from Latin America and Spain to teach basic guitar skills to Latino young people. He is also a registered Suzuki guitar instructor who maintains a private studio serving over 15 families in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan.


Tomas Rodriguez has developed a unique repertoire for solo guitar performance that is rooted in his ancestry and guided by the diverse styles of music that have inspired him. His programs draw on the folk music of Galicia, Spain, arrangements of the works Venezuelan harp masters Juan Vicente Torrealba and Ignacio Figueredo, interpretations of the compositions of Malian virtuosos Toumani Diabaté, and Ali Farka Touré as well as touching on contemporary flamenco. Rodriguez’ own compositions, emerging from these diverse musical inspirations, include original Brazilian choros, Venezuelan waltzes and flamenco granainas.

“Tomas Rodriguez plays guitar with a passionate originality, with an individual touch, drawing from the musical heart of the Latin world.” The folk and classical traditions of Spain and South America are richly evident in Rodriguez’ playing, but he transmutes them into a sound clearly, fervently his own”. -Christian Science Monitor

A collaboration between Tomas Rodriguez (Spanish and Flamenco Guitar), vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Hasan Bakr and mbira master Kevin Nathaniel Hylton, AFARA examines musical connections between the African and Spanish diasporas and their union in the musical landscape of the Americas. Award-winning music journalist Norman Weinstein said: “This trio mines the deep spirit encoded musically throughout the African Diaspora, a rare achievement in itself. Marking their sound is an engaging groove, touching harmonies, and a mesmerizing exploration to discover how to bring the tonal continent Africa into a global symphonic world map.”

A percussionist, singer and composer who found his first musical expressions in the tonal arts of the drum, Hasan Bakr has studied in the master –teacher discipline for most of his adult life with such notables as Chief Bey (shekere and bell), Babafeami, (Conga), Nana Vasconcelos (berimbau and caxixi), Little Ray Romero (timbales), and Mbemba Bangoura. (Djembe). While actively pursuing a career in drumming, Hasan molded a unique vocal ability that landed a position as lead singer in the legendary Spirit Ensemble and HeritageOP, both New York based percussion ensembles.

During his tenure with The Spirit Ensemble, the study of the playing and building of the Mbira was undertaken with North American Mbira masters Kevin Nathaniel and the late Zeleka Jenkins. The most important quality and achievement of both of these ensembles has been their enormous contribution to arts and education in the Greater New York metropolitan area.

Hasan is a natural musician and has a 22-year history in conducting African musical instrument demos, student assembly programs, in- school artist residencies and youth empowerment workshops. He is also a 1998 Ethnic Dance Award Recipient. He has performed with a number of artists including Miriam Makeba, Abdullah Ibrahim, Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited, Madonna, The Last Poets, Hassan Hakmoum, Zimbabwean Mbira Master Ephat Mujuru, Salieu Suso, Veiux Diop and many more. As a composer, he has penned a collection of works for dance and the media arts with a co-writer’s credit on the film, “Brooklyn Babylon. Hasan was also the artistic producer for ____ at Carnegie Hall in 2006 and 2007.

Kevin Nathaniel Hylton graduated Yale University in 1982 as Scholar of the House for fine arts. He has, however, devoted himself to music over the years; African music in particular. He performs on several traditional African instruments and builds them as well. He is founding member of three music groups, Spirit Ensemble, Heritage, and Forestdance, all of which currently perform in NYC and nationally. Kevin is a known composer of African and diasporal music. He writes songs, lyrics, poetry, and educational essays on African music and instruments. He has composed and recorded for the audio version of Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy, and for the film Beloved, as well as several documentaries. His workshops and lecture/demos have been presented at Lincoln Center, Juilliard, University of Michigan, and several other institutions. As an advocate for African culture he has been called the “Johnny Appleseed” of the mbira because he has taught tens of thousands of people all over the world the art of mbira making. Trained musically in the ancient master-disciple tradition, Kevin is widely recognized as an accomplished percussionist, specializing in the mbira and rattle percussion. He worked extensively with Zimbabwe’s mbira legend Ephat Mujuru, and with master drummer Chief Bey. His music is available on the Narada collection “African Voices”, and the Ellipsis Arts release “African Dreams”.


A new monthly music series has sprung up in Kensington, Brooklyn called Church Avenue Sessions.  Founded by guitarist and composer Yoshie Fruchter and hosted by the Flatbush Jewish Center, the series is focused on showcasing the amazing artistry of Brooklyn based musicians, regardless of genre.  All ages are welcome! As a recent transplant to Kensington from Prospect Heights, Yoshie was inspired to start CAS from other peers who have run music series’ in synagogues around the city, including The Sixth Street Synagogue in the East Village, Kane Street synagogue in Cobble Hill, Temple Beth Emeth in Ditmas Park, and the Stephen Wise synagogue on the upper west side.

As community spaces, synagogues are many ways perfect venues to present art and music, and Flatbush Jewish Center is no exception.  With a beautiful and spacious sanctuary, and a downstairs event room, there is opportunity to present both sensitive acoustic music, as well as bands that utilize drums and electric instruments.

Flatbush Jewish Center (FJC) is a Conservative synagogue offering programming and services for families, adults, and children. We serve the Windsor Terrace and Kensington, Brooklyn communities and offer traditional egalitarian services.

Yoshie Fruchter is a guitar, bass, oud player and composer whose band, Pitom (Tzadik Records), has received critical acclaim from JazzTimes magazine, the Wall Street Journal and Guitar Player Magazine, among others.  The unique blend of rock, jazz, experimental and jewish styles in his playing and composing is a defining characteristic of his music.  He has toured the US and Europe with Pitom and other groups, playing the Atlantique Jazz Festival in France, the Krakow Jewish Culture Festival, Saalfelden Jazz Festival in Austria and others.  He recently released a record of post-rock arrangements of old cantorial recordings entitled Schizophonia, and leads a new project called Sandcatchers featuring oud, lap steel and cello. In addition, Yoshie is a sought-after freelance musician in New York City in bands ranging in style from acoustic world music to heavy metal and has performed with John Zorn, Cyro Baptista and Frank London, among many others.

We are fortunate to have Yoshie and his family as members of Flatbush Jewish Center and our Kensington community at large! Please come join us!

Stay tuned for the schedule of upcoming performances!


Upcoming Performances

Thursday, March 22nd
Thursday, April 26th