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Bronx gospel group hits the Keyes

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A new gospel-themed band comprised of Bronx teenagers has inked a deal with a major record label and is even writing songs for, and singing on, Grammy-winner Alicia Keyes’ new album.

The group calling themselves Liv’re (pronounced Liv-Ray), which means ‘free’ in Portuguese, and formed in the Bronx during a religious revival in August 2007 as a praise chorus.

The group of seven singers and three band members worked so well together singing gospel standards that they decided to form their own band. The were recently signed to MBK Entertainment, the same management company that handles Alicia Keyes – and are collaborating with the superstar on her as yet untitled new album.

“The album has about nine songs, and Liv’re completed their vocals and music,” said Rev. Roger Hambrick, one of Liv’re’s managers and the father of a band member. “Alicia Keyes will record one song that Liv’re wrote called ‘Crazy.’”

The band is comprised of Richard Tolbert Jr., Andre Blaskett, Ajanee Hambrick, Areil Malloy, Kenneth Williams, Eugene Tolbert, Darius Woodley, Bria McDaniel, Guy Jenkins, and Malik Sharif Spence. Aside from Blaskett, all are still teenagers. The band members hail from neighborhoods around the Bronx – including Wakefield, Williamsbridge, Pelham Parkway, and Soundview.

It was at a the 28th anniversary Bronx Mass Choir reunion at Hambrick’s church – Green Pastures Baptist Church located at 1115 Ward Avenue – that Liv’re caught the attention of Alicia Keyes manager Jeff and Conrad Robinson.

Both Robinsons immediately knew that they want to be involved with Liv’re and introduce them to the world. Liv’re writes and produces all of their own material – all with an emphasis on being holy and saved in the Christian meaning of the world.

Indeed the first group that they sang together as a group, “Survivor,” spoke of the idea of being a Christian and a young person.

“There aren’t a lot of words [to Survivor], but we feel like people need to hear things over and over so they can understand the message we are trying to deliver,” band member Andre Blaskett said.

All of the band members began singing at a very tender age in various gospel choirs across the borough. Most began signing at the age of three or four.

Liv’re had a signing party at B.B. King’s Restaurant on 42 Street in Manhattan on Monday, March 9, celebrating their new record contract with MBK entertainment.

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