Center’s stage: New music series at East Midwood Jewish Center

Latin launch: Ben Lapidus, of the Latin jazz band Sonido Isleño, will perform with the rest of the six-piece on Jan. 9, in the recently-restored Grand Ballroom of the East Midwood Jewish Center.
Photo by Steve Schnibbe

Midwood has a new music spot!

A fiery Latin jazz band will heat things up as part of a new music series at the East Midwood Jewish Center on Jan. 9. The concert marks a return of sorts for the bandleader of Sonido Isleño, who organized a series of concerts at the Center a few years ago.

“We did a jazz series a few years ago. It was good, but it was just five concerts,” said Ben Lapidus, a member of the Jewish Center. “It’s a full-time job to promote them.”

This time around, the Midwood guitar player will just be performing with his six-piece band, leaving the organizing to fellow musician and Center member Hagai Kamil.

“He really knows what he’s doing,” said Lapidus. “He’s done a lot to create a space that’s really conducive to performing”

The Center’s 300-person capacity Grand Ballroom has been restored over the last few months, receiving an updated stage and sound system.

“It’s 90 percent there,” said Kamil, who organized the renovations. “There are some visual things I want to do to make it even better, but it’s a really professional set-up.”

Kamil, who owns the Brooklyn Music School in Park Slope, started planning the music series because of a lack of local family-friendly events. Several of his students had moved with their families to the Midwood and Ditmas Park neighborhood, and were lacking in places to hear music, he said.

“The students that I have — they’re looking for events,” said Kamil. “They’re moving into the neighborhood and realize there’s nothing to do here. We have the Brooklyn Center [For the Performing Arts] nearby, but that’s a bigger venue, and much more expensive.”

Kamil used his contacts in the local music community to book bands, and is lining up monthly performers for the next few months, looking for performers who will appeal to the entire local community, not just the regulars at the Jewish Center.

“This is not for Jewish people — this is for everybody,” said Kamil. “I’m trying to get out of just depending on the synagogue crowd. We want to appeal to the community as a whole.”

The Latin jazz band playing on Jan. 9 is part of that goal. Sonido Isleño have been drawing crowds for almost 20 years, have recorded five albums of blended Latin jazz and Carribbean music, and toured across the U.S., Europe, and South America. Bandleader Lapidus says he is looking forward to taking the Center’s stage.

“It’s great to be from Brooklyn, and play in Brooklyn and have opportunities in Brooklyn that are not just in restaurants or bars,” he said. “It’s a great facility and a great community.”

Ben Lapidus and Sonido Isleño at the East Midwood Jewish Center [1625 Ocean Ave. between Avenues K and L in Midwood, (718) 338–3800, www.emjc.org]. Jan. 9 at 6:30 pm. $25 ($20 seniors, children free).

Reach arts editor Bill Roundy at broundy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507.
Two heads are better than one: Midwood jazz guitarist Ben Lapidus will plays his double-necked instrument at the East Midwood Jewish Center on Jan. 9.
Photo by Steve Schnibbe

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