Artist in Residence: Michael Mwenso: In Conversation with Jon Batiste
Artist in Residence
Originally Aired: Monday, November 14, 2022
Michael Mwenso is a bandleader, singer, and one of the founders of the Shakes. To kick-off the residency, Michael will lead an Ancestral Communal Listening experience and sit down with an Album of the Year GRAMMY Award-winning artist to discuss Black culture and art, and examine the “nutritional value” of the music we consume.
About Ancestral Communal Listening Experiences
Ancestral Communal Listening Experiences are a series of listening sessions of Gospel, Blues, Jazz, and other Black Roots music forms by guiding the audience through thematic sessions and co-discovering the nutrients that can continuously feed the soul hidden in the music.
Credit: Photo by Oluwaseye Olusa
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. 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.
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