Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Harlem Based Mwenso & The Shakes' Debut Album EMERGENCE Out Now

Harlem Based Mwenso & The Shakes' Debut Album EMERGENCE Out Now

Harlem based band Mwenso & The Shakes' debut album, Emergence, is out now viaRopeadope Records. The new music is receiving early critical praise-JAZZIZ calls the group, "...a unique troupe of global artists presenting music that merges entertainment and artistry" while furthers, "Not many bands in the orbit of jazz today can begin to approach the crowd-pleasing threshold of Mwenso & The Shakes." ALL ARTS presented by New York Public Media adds, "The music doled out by Mwenso and The Shakes is effusive, overflowing with elements of classical jazz, blues, world music and tap. When played live, this amalgam of ideas and musical references has garnered the spiritual jazz-outfit with a reputation for energetic sets and genre-pushing inventions."

Additionally, the group will embark on their extensive "Harlem 100" North American tour this fall, which includes stops in Baton Rouge, Jacksonville, Greenville, Charlotte, Des Moines,Princeton, St. Louis, Flint, Stanford and many more. Created in collaboration with IMG Artists, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and JMG Live, this multi-media show celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance while capturing 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. Conducted by bandleader and lead vocalist Michael Mwenso, "Harlem 100" presents the most exciting Harlem musicians and dancers in a modern variety show. See below for the complete list of tour dates. Tickets are available now at

Check out the album here!

Fresh off their album release show at New York's Chelsea Music Hall, the band will continue to take their lauded live show on the road this summer with headlining performances at Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in New York with special guest Fred Wesley as well as a performance at Newport Jazz Festival today.

Driven by Mwenso's deep ancestral understanding of the African-American music tradition,Emergence came together through many late nights in the band's loft in Harlem exploring music outside of the traditional classroom using free-form musical expression. Hailing from many corners of the world including Sierra Leone, London, South Africa, Greenwich Village, Madagascar, France, Jamaica and Hawaii the band gains inspiration from each of their unique backgrounds while cohesively collaborating in a spontaneously communal and improvisational environment.

Of Emergence, Mwenso says, "This album is very personal to the musical and spiritual growth of Mwenso & The Shakes. Our music has become something that expresses empowering messages of love. The variety of musical styles that is presented here is something we have diligently, as a group, been working on over the last few years. I truly believe there is something for everyone on this album. I want people to listen to Emergence like they are in the audience. Close your eyes, put it on and imagine you are there with us on the journey."

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 asBenny 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 lead 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 ofJuilliard trained musicians, which soon became known as The Shakes. These unique group of global artists present music that merges entertainment and artistry with a formidable timeline of jazz and blues through African and Afro American music. Taking from the styling of Fats Waller, Muddy Waters, James Brown and many other American musical legends.

Mwenso & The Shakes are Mwenso (bandleader, vocals), Vuyo Sotashe (vocals), Kyle Poole(drums), Gabe Schnider (guitar), Mathis Picard (piano and keys), Ruben Fox (tenor sax),Julian Lee (tenor sax), Russell Hall (bass) and Michela Marino Lerman (tap dance).


August 2-Newport, RI-Newport Jazz Festival
August 4-Erie, PA-Erie Jazz Festival
August 16-Harleysville, PA-Philadelphia Folk Festival
August 23-New York, NY-Charlie Parker Jazz Festival at Marcus Garvey Park
September 6-8-Greensboro, NC-North Carolina Folk Festival
September 21-White Plains, NY-White Plains Jazz Festival
September 28-Auburn, MA-Arcadia Folk Festival


October 8-Baton Rouge, LA-The Manship Theatre
October 11-Irmo, SC-Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College
October 12-Wilmington, NC-Thalian Hall
October 13-Jacksonville, FL-Ritz Theatre & Museum
October 14-Greenville, SC-Peace Center for Performing Arts
October 15-Charlotte, NC-Blumenthal Performing Arts, Knight Theater
October 17-College Park, MD-Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
October 18-Harrisonburg, VA-James Madison University - The Forbes Center for the Performing Arts
October 19-Hampton, VA- Hampton Arts, The American Theatre
October 22-University Park, PA-Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State University
October 23-Lancaster, PA-Millersville University, The Ware Center
October 24-Rochester, NY-Nazareth College Arts Center, Callahan Theater
October 26-Storrs, CT-Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts at University of Connecticut
October 27-Morristown, NJ-Mayo Performing Arts Center
October 30-Des Moines, IA-Hoyt Sherman Place
November 1-West Lafayette, IN-Loeb Playhouse at Purdue University
November 2-Oxford, OH-Miami University of Ohio Hall Auditorium
November 3-Midland, MI-Midland Center for the Arts
November 6-Princeton, NJ-McCarter Theatre
November 7-Athens, OH-Ohio University Memorial Auditorium
November 8-Carmel, IN-Center for the Performing Arts
November 9-St Louis, MO-The Sheldon Concert Hall
November 10-Overland Park, KS-Carlsen Center at Johnson Country Community College
November 14-Urbana, IL-Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Colwell Playhouse
November 15-Flint, MI-The Whiting
November 16-Chandler, AZ-Chandler Center for the Arts
November 17-Cerritos, CA-Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts
November 20-Stanford, CA-Stanford Live, Bing Concert Hall
November 21-Rohnert Park, CA-Green Music Center at Sonoma State University
November 22-Davis, CA-Mondavi Center
November 23-Livermore, CA-Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center
November 24-Arroyo Grande, CA-Clark Center for the Performing Arts, Forbes Hall

Photo credit: Elizabeth Leitzell

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes, and More from Your Favorite Broadway Stars

Related Articles View More Music Stories

More Hot Stories For You