100 years after one of the most culturally significant periods in human history, Harlem is in the midst of a resurgent creative movement sparked by the centenarian embers left by the wildfire that was the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance has since proven to be an unrivaled period of brilliance in both profound intelligent expression and preeminent entertainment.
Created in collaboration with the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, 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, Ethel Waters as well as a 9 piece band with 3 dancers, Harlem 100 celebrates one of the most influential artistic movements of our country and gives insight into Harlem then and now.
Mwenso and the Shakes
Mwenso and the Shakes are a unique troupe of global artists who present music that merges the highest form of entertainment and artistry while commanding a formidable timeline of jazz and blues expression through African and Afro American music. Immigrating from Sierra Leone, London, South Africa, Greenwich Village, Madagascar, France, Jamaica, and Hawaii the Shakes all now call Harlem their home. Taking from the stylings of Fats Waller, Muddy Waters, James Brown and many other American musical legends – Michael Mwenso leads an electrifying show the New York Times calls “intense, prowling, and ebullient.”
JAZZIZ calls the group, “…a unique troupe of global artists presenting music that merges entertainment and artistry” while WBGO.org furthers, “Not many bands in the orbit of jazz today can begin to approach the crowd-pleasing threshold of Mwenso & The Shakes.”
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 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.
Michela Marino Lerman
Michela is a globally sought after tap dance artist, performer, choreographer, educator and all-around creative spirit. The Huffington Post has called her a “hurricane of rhythm” and the NY Times has called her both a “prodigy” and has described her dancing as “flashes of brilliance”. She has studied with Buster Brown, Gregory Hines, Leroy Myers and Marion Coles and has performed with many masters such as Wynton Marsalis, Savion Glover, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Roy Hargrove, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Benny Golson, Marcus Roberts and many more. In 2017 Michela conceived, choreographed, and starred in “This Joint is Jumpin” which debuted in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s new London West End Theater, The Other Palace. Lerman is often a bandleader at some of New York’s greatest music venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Smalls, Ginny’s Supper Club & Joe’s Pub.
Young South African jazz vocalist, Vuyo (Vuyolwethu) Sotashe moved to the 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 over-all 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.