Jazz band to celebrate the Harlem Renaissance at Hoyt Sherman Place
Dr. MaryLouise Patterson talks about her memories of Langston Hughes at an event for her book "Letters From Langston: From the Harlem Renaissance to the Red Scare and Beyond.” Karen Roberts/For The Journal News
The Harlem Renaissance is embedded in the history of African-American culture and American history for its intellectual, social and artistic eruption in the 1920s.
The legacy and impact of the Harlem Renaissance — once known as the "New Negro Movement," named after "The New Negro," a 1925 anthology edited by Alain Locke —will be coming to Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines on Oct.30.
Harlem-based jazz band Mwenso & the Shakes will be performing as part of its "Harlem 100" tour. The national 32-city tour celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance.
"Harlem 100" was created in collaboration with the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.
The multimedia show will capture the sights and critical voices of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes and Billie Holiday. They and many other vital voices are credited for making Harlem the cultural center of the country.
Attendees can expect Harlem musicians and dancers in a modern variety show. Bandleader and lead vocalist Michael Mwenso will conduct the performance.
Mwenso, who was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, spent his teenage years hanging out at historical jazz club Ronnie Scott's in London. There, he was exposed to musicians such as Benny Carter, Elvin Jones, Ray Brown, and Billy Higgins.
As a youth, Mwenso began honing his craft playing trombone, singing and performing in hump bands, reggae and Afrobeat horn sections and at hard-bop sessions. His talent caught the attention of the public and led him to meet the late great James Brown.
Mwenso would go on to sing and dance at Brown's London shows before his death in December 2006.
"Performing and getting to know James Brown was one of the most enriching and rewarding times of my life," Mwenso said in a statement to the Register.
In 2012, Mwenso's friend Wynton Marsalis brought him to New York City to serve as a curator programming associate at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
During this time, he also booked nightly gigs at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. He booked and performed with the likes of Cécile McLorin Salvant, Jon Batiste, Aaron Diehl and more.
He collaborated with a wide variety of Juilliard-trained musicians, and thus Mwenso & the Shakes was born.
If you go
When: Wednesday, Oct. 30
Where: Hoyt Sherman Place, 1501 Woodland Ave., Des Moines, IA 50314