Tickets $45 – $35
Tickets will be sold in socially distanced pods.
Harlem 100: Mwenso & the Shakes feat. Brianna Thomas, Vuyo Sotashe & Mathis Picard
Created in collaboration with the NATIONAL JAZZ MUSEUM IN HARLEM & JMG LIVE, this multi-media show captures the sights and sounds of Harlem when legendary artists such as Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, and Billie Holiday made Harlem the cultural center of the country. Hosted by Michael Mwenso, HARLEM 100 presents the most exciting Harlem musicians and dancers in a modern variety show and pays homage to the presentations made famous in the Apollo Theater, the Cotton Club, and other celebrated venues of the Harlem Renaissance. Featuring the music of Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and more, HARLEM 100 celebrates one of the most influential artistic movements of our country and gives insight into Harlem then and Now.
“The ‘Harlem 100’ will be a musical journey that celebrates one of the greatest movements in cultural history while connecting the past to the present,” says Mwenso.
Mwenso was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone but spent his teenage years hanging out at the legendary jazz club Ronnie Scott’s in London where he was exposed to musicians such as Benny Carter, Elvin Jones, Ray Brown and Billy Higgins. In his youth, Mwenso started honing his talents as a trombonist, singer and performer playing in jump bands, reggae and Afrobeat horn sections and at hard-bop sessions. Mwenso’s talent as a performer caught the attention of many, which subsequently led him to meet James Brown who allotted space for him to sing and dance at his London shows.
In 2012, friend and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis brought Mwenso to New York City to serve as curator and programming associate at Jazz at Lincoln Center where he also booked nightly sets at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. Over the next few years, Mwenso booked and performed with the likes of Cécile McLorin Salvant, Jon Batiste, Aaron Diehl, Sullivan Fortner and Jamison Ross.
Through these performances at Dizzy’s, Mwenso began to collaborate with a wide variety of Juilliard trained musicians that soon became known as The Shakes. This unique group of global artists presents music that merges entertainment and artistry with a formidable timeline of jazz and blues through African and Afro-American music.
With “a strong voice and a big range” (New York Times), NYC singer and bandleader Brianna Thomas draws on the influence of the great blues-women of our past. Beyond a healthy serving of sass, Sarah Vaughn’s influence contributes to Brianna’s style of communicating a myriad of moods and feelings. Add to that a coyness reminiscent of Nancy Wilson, an Ella-esque skill and enthusiasm for scatting, and the stylistic breadth and vocal grandeur evocative of Dianne Reeves. Brianna’s talents have propelled her to many successful performances at the Montreux, North Sea, and Umbria Jazz Festivals. She has performed across the country from New Orleans to Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center with appearances with Fred Anderson, Von Freeman, Houston Person, and the Barber Brothers. Brianna was a resident in both the 2001 and 2002 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Programs and was awarded “High School Jazz Vocalist of the Year” by Down Beat magazine in 2001. Notably, Brianna Thomas is the youngest person ever to be inducted into Peoria’s African-American Hall of Fame at the age of thirteen.
Young South African jazz vocalist, Vuyo (Vuyolwethu) Sotashe moved to NYC in 2013 after being awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to pursue Master of Music at William Paterson University. Since then, he has gone to win first prize at the very first Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Vocal Competition in 2014 and performed on the festival’s main stage the following year. More recently, he won the Audience prize award and placed second overall at the Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition in 2015, held at the annual Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland. In the same year, he placed third in the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Vocal competition, where he was the very first male vocalist ever to place in the competition’s finals.