The cello is the instrument that most resembles the human voice, says cellist Eugene Friesen.

"The cello has a very profound quality to it - a human quality. It hits you in your heart and opens you up. It's very cathartic, allowing you to experience music on an intensely personal level," Friesen said in a telephone interview.Friesen expands the range of his string instrument far beyond its traditional classical role as an ensemble piece into the realm of dynamic soloist.

He will be performing his innovative jazz solos at a benefit concert at 7:30 p.m., April 4, at Kingsbury Hall, University of Utah. Joining Friesen will be jazz pianist Phil Markowitz and Glen Velez, internationally recognized percussionist.

All proceeds will be contributed to villagers of drought-stricken Ouelessebougou in Mali, Africa.

Friesen's music is personal, uplifting and vibrant - reflecting his poignant observations of nature, his exuberance for white-water rafting, his tenderness toward children and concern for the world's environment.

Using his cello as a voice to speak out against abuse of precious natural beauty and resources, Friesen has inspired audiences in the Soviet Union, Spain and Brazil.

He has recorded in diverse settings - from the world's largest gothic cathedral in New York City to the Grand Canyon. His albums, "New Friend" and "Arms Around You," have received enthusiastic reviews.

Friesen says he incorporates rhythms from many cultures - including Africa. "The music of Africa has awakened a new rhythmic excitement in me. The music has primitive roots yet is extremely sophisticated in its layers of rhythm."

His dream: That as distinctions between types of music break down, so will divisions between people.

The dream motivating the Ouelessebougou Alliance corresponds. Members believe that as all people belong to the earth's community, we all are obligated to help each other and protect the planet's resources. Saving the Ouelessebougou villages from the Sahara Desert will benefit all life.

The money raised from the concert will be used to build clean wells, improve agriculture and provide basic health care for those living in the world's third-poorest country. Children in Ouelessebougou die from curable diseases such as measles. The alliance provides tools for villagers to improve their communities and save lives. - Jan Thompson

Tickets for the Friesen Concert are $7 for students, $10 general admission. Tickets are available at Acoustic Music and Smokey's Records stores and Graywhale CD.