(TOMS RIVER, NJ) -- Created in collaboration with the National Jazz Museum and JMG Live, the multimedia “Harlem 100” captures the sights and sounds of Harlem when legendary artists such as Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, and Billie Holiday made that NYC neighborhood the cultural center of the country. Don’t miss this performance on Sunday, November 7 at 7:00pm in the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College.
Hosted by Michael Mwenso – with The Shakes, and special guests Brianna Thomas, Michela Marino Lerman, and Vuyo Sotashe – “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. “‘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.
Tickets are $35-45 and can be purchased online at grunincenter.org; by phone at 732-255-0500; or in person at the Grunin Center Box Office, Monday to Friday, 12:00pm to 5:00pm. Tickets will be sold in socially distance pods.
About The Performers: Michael 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. Mwenso started honing his talents as a trombonist, singer, and performer, playing in jump bands, in reggae and Afrobeat horn sections, and at hard-bop sessions. Not long after, James Brown allotted space for him to sing and dance at his London shows. In 2012, friend and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis brought Mwenso to NYC to serve as curator and programming associate at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and he also began booking nightly sets at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. Through these performances, Mwenso collaborated with a wide variety of Juilliard-trained musicians — soon to be 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,” as the New York Times noted, 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 Thomas’ 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. Thomas’ talents have propelled her to many successful performances at the Montreux, North Sea, and Umbria Jazz Festivals. She has performed across the country, was a resident in the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program, and was awarded “High School Jazz Vocalist of the Year” by Down Beat magazine in 2001. Thomas is the youngest person ever to be inducted into Peoria’s African-American Hall of Fame, at the age of 13.
Michela Marino Lerman is a globally sought-after tap dance artist, performer, choreographer, educator, and all-around creative spirit. The Huffington Post called her a “hurricane of rhythm” and the New York Times deemed her a “prodigy,” and has described her dancing as “flashes of brilliance.” Lerman has studied with Buster Brown, Gregory Hines, Leroy Myers, and Marion Coles, and has performed with masters such as Wynton Marsalis, Savion Glover, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Roy Hargrove, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Benny Golson, and Marcus Roberts. In 2017, Lerman 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, including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Smalls, Ginny’s Supper Club, and Joe’s Pub.
South African jazz vocalist Vuyo (Vuyolwethu) Sotashe moved to NYC in 2013 after he was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in 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. The following year, Sotashe won the Audience Prize, and placed second overall, at the Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition, held at the annual Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland. Also in 2015, he earned third in the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Vocal competition — the first male vocalist to ever place in the competition’s finals.
Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts is located on the campus of Ocean County College, 1 College Drive, in Toms River, New Jersey.