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Tuesday, March 28, 2000 ; Page C07

Nivo and the Serge Rahoerson Group, a jazz trio from Madagascar, delivered a rich fusion of rhythm and blues, classic American jazz and complex African beats Saturday night at the Hilton Embassy Row Hotel in the group's Washington area debut.

Virtually unknown in the United States but firmly established in Europe, the group offered a mixture of the familiar and the exotic--standards such as "Since I Fell for You" and "Satin Doll," along with such original tunes as "Lainga" and "Fally" with lyrics in Malagasy.

Serge Rahoerson (piano-saxophone) serves as composer and arranger, and Gerard Rakoto (bass-vocals) gives the trio's music a solid foundation. But the revelation was Nivo Rahoerson, a little woman with an enormous voice. At times she evoked Ella or Sarah or Aretha--but not in ways that sounded derivative or even intentional. With its unusual range and depth, the voice, in the end, was pure Nivo.

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