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Michael Mwenso’s Sacred Protest Songs: From Africa to America
with Mwenso & the Shakes, Vuyo Sotashe & Sullivan Fortner
at (le) poisson rouge
6:00 pm doors | 7:00 pm show | 18+
$15 advance | $20 day of show
A unique and curated presentation that showcases three different templates of human protest through song. Sullivan Fortner will display the foundation of all great American sacred music that grew out of the shackles of slavery, focusing on hymns from the great Thomas Dorsey to father of modern gospel, Rev. James Cleveland. Vuyo Sotashe will then share the unique folkloric tradition of South African township songs that he heard sung in villages throughout apartheid as a young boy. The evening will culminate with a premiere of new music by Mwenso & the Shakes with the cyclical but inspirational message to have no regrets and to persevere.
The Checkout from WBGO’s Simon Rentner will be there to host and record this world premiere performance.
About Mwenso & 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. Originating from Sierra Leone, London, South Africa, Greenwich Village, Madagascar, France, Jamaica, South Florida, Hawaii the Shakes all now call Harlem their home. Taking from the stylings of James Brown and many other African American musical legends – Michael Mwenso leads an electrifying show the NY Times calls “intense, prowling, and ebullient.”
About Michael Mwenso:
Born in Sierra Leone, raised between the ports of Freetown and clubs of London. Michael developed a profound musical and spiritual understanding of American musics. From James Brown to B.B. King, Betty Carter to Elvin Jones, Ray Charles to Jimmy Smith – Michael was blessed to learn from the legends directly. He went on to tour the world as a trombonist, in various groups. When he found himself back in London he created the most electrifying scene of artists, musicians, creative young people at the famed Ronnie Scott’s where he curated the Late Show every night. At the request of Wynton Marsalis, Michael then moved to New York to curate at Jazz at Lincoln Center and create an energetic scene at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. He was even called upon by Woody Allen to help produce and cast musicians for his feature film “Cafe Society.” He now leads the dynamic “Mwenso & the Shakes” and is in residence at Joe’s Pub as the curator of “Mwenso’s Melting Pot.”
About Sullivan Fortner:
Sullivan Joseph Fortner Jr. is a native New Orleanian who has already made a significant foray into the jazz world that belies his young age. While touring with Stefon Harris & Blackout, Christian Scott Quintet, and the Roy Hargrove Quintet, Sullivan completed his Master’s degree in Jazz Performance at Manhattan School of Music under the tutorage of Jason Moran, and Phil Markowitz. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Jazz Performance from Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Sullivan began playing music by ear at the age of seven. Two years later, he was playing for church choirs throughout New Orleans. By the time he was 11 years old, Sullivan had won a Cox Cable “Amazing Kids Award”. At the age of 13, Sullivan furthered his formal education in piano by attending the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) and earned scholarships to several prestigious summer jazz programs, including the Vail Jazz Institute and the Skidmore Jazz Studies Summer Program. A standout on the stage and in the classroom, Sullivan was Valedictorian of his high school class while simultaneously graduating from NOCCA. He has studied and performed with many great musicians, including The Marsalis Family, Donald Harrison, Nicholas Payton, Billy Hart, Gary Bartz, Marcus Belgrave, The Jordan Family, Irvin Mayfield, Peter Martin, Dave Liebman, and a host of others.
About Vuyo Sotashe:
Young South African jazz vocalist, Vuyo (Vuyolwethu) Sotashe, is gradually making his mark in the New York jazz scene. 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 in February of 2015. 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 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.
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