The Joye of Jazz

Back by popular demand, Juilliard-trained trumpeter Riley Mulherkar returns to the Festival - and brings 18 super - talented friends, all regular performers at jazz at Lincoln Center! Riley joins up-and-coming jazz stars Sammy Miller and the Congregation, The Ladybugs, and Michael Mwenso and the Shakes  featuring  Vuyo Sotashe, for an afternoon and evening of full-on, nonstop entertainment at The Willcox. Don't miss the late-night swing dance party!


All Day Pass ($45)  

(Ticket includes admittance to Swing Dance Party)

Includes all of the performances below 

Day Pass ($25)

(Ticket does not include admittance to Swing Dance Party)

2:00 PM - The Ladybugs

3:00 PM  Handful of Keys piano room - Mathis Picard

Listening Party room - Michael Mwenso and Vuyo Sotashe

4:00 PM  Sammy Miller and the Congregation

5:00 PM Handful of Keys piano room - David Linard

Listening Party room - Martina DaSilva and Sammy Miller

      Evening Pass ($30)

     (Ticket includes admittance to Swing Dance Party)

7:00 PM - Headline Performance:

Michael Mwenso and the Shakes, featuring Vuyo Sotashe

        swing dance party ($10)

9:15 PM

About the Artists

Riley Headshot.jpg

Riley Mulherkar

The New York Times has called Riley Mulherkar a "smart young trumpet player," and the Wall Street Journal praised him as a "youngster to keep an eye on," but Aikenites know him as the bandleader whose mates rocked Second Baptist Church with a Dizzy Gillespie program in 2016. He is also bandleader and founding member of the Westerlies, a brass quartet that has premiered more than fifty new works since its inception in 2011 to create the rarest of hybrids: music that is both "folk-like and composerly, lovely and intellectually rigorous," according to NPR Music. As a musical director, Mulherkar has worked with several leading artists, including the jazz masters Wynton Marsalis and Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Mulherkar serves as artistic director for jazz for Joye in Aiken. 

The Seattle native moved to New York in 2010 to study at The Juilliard School, where he completed his bachelor's degree in 2014 and his master's in 2015 and received he Knowles Prize for Jazz and the Peter Mennin Prize for outstanding achievement and leadership in music. In 2011 Wynton Marsalis named Mulherkar a "rising jazz artist" in JET Magazine, and in 2014 Mulherkar became the first recipient of the Laurie Frink Career Grant at the Festival of New Trumpet Music in New York. Mulherkar is actively engaged in educational outreach. He founded the music program at stART Osceola, an intensive summer arts program in Florida, where he taught for five years. He has also facilitated master classes in Brazil and Mexico as well as across the United States.


Sammy Miller and the congregation

Sammy Miller and the Congregation are on a mission to put the generosity back into jazz and bring art back to the people. Miller and the ensemble play joyful jazz- music that feels good; it entertains, enriches, and most of all uplifts. Sammy Miller, a Los Angeles native and Grammy-nominated drummer, has become known for his maturity and relentless focus on making joyous music as a drummer, singer, and bandleader. Miller formed the Congregation upon completing his master's degree at Juilliard.  As a band, the members are focused on sharing the power of community through their music. While the band members have performed/recorded independently with notable artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Jason Mraz, and Iron and Wine at such venues as the White House, Lincoln Center, and the Hollywood Bowl, the Congregation has opted to remain an ensemble and to create globally conscious music with the intention of spreading joy throughout the world.


The ladybugs

The Ladybugs are a traditional jazz vocal group known for their intricate harmonies and experimental arrangements. Led by Martina DaSilva, all members of the band sing while playing ukulele, guitar, trombone, bass, and drums. The Ladybugs’ repertoire includes favorites from the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s, infused with swing, country, blues, and latin music. The band has received high praise for recent performances at Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Generations in Jazz Festival, the NY Hot Jazz Festival, and the NYC Winter Jazzfest. With an uplifting sound that attracts all audiences, The Ladybugs effortlessly keep listeners smiling and moving. In September 2015, The Ladybugs released their debut self- titled album to rave reviews.

Michael Mwenso.jpg

Michael Mwenso and the Shakes

Whether he is fulfilling the role of vocalist, emcee, showman, or impresario, Michael Mwenso conveys both the sophistication and spontaneity of hard-core jazz and the music’s folkloric roots with impeccable craft, creativity, and flair.

Mwenso most often performs as leader—or ringleader—of Michael Mwenso and the Shakes, which he describes as “a generation of holistic musicians who love Louis Armstrong just as much as Woody Shaw [and] Sidney Bechet as much as Ornette Coleman.” The revue comprises two to five vocalists, including Mwenso and Vuyo Sotashe, and a five-piece ensemble. The latter includes the rising stars Kyle Poole, drummer; Mathis Picard, pianist, and Alphonso Horne and Riley Mulherkar, trumpet. Sometimes they are joined by the acclaimed singer Cecile McLorin Salvant and pianists Jonathan Batiste, Aaron Diehl, and Sullivan Fortner, among others. All developed their ideas and came to prominence at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York’s Time-Warner Center, where they have performed since 2012.

Mwenso was born in 1984 and lived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in West Africa until he was ten, when his single mother brought him to London. He began singing and playing piano, then trombone, and by the age of thirteen he was touring with an old-school swing band. During those years he also immersed himself in recordings of American jazz and roots music. Then his mother arranged through a family friend for Michael to spend evenings at the internationally prestigious Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. There he watched, talked to, and learned from jazz giants like Elvin Jones, Billy Higgins, Betty Carter, Benny Carter, Tommy Flanagan, and Johnny Griffin, whom he impressed with his knowledge of their recordings. He also drew the attention of James Brown, who offered Mwenso, then in his early teens, a guest spot as a singer and dancer for Brown’s London engagements.

When he was sixteen, Mwenso left school and turned professional. He played trombone in reggae and Afrobeat horn sections (including a group led by the drum legend Tony Allen) and jammed with the American expat drummer Clifford Jarvis and London’s strongest hard-core jazz musicians of African and Caribbean descent. Five years later Mwenso began to focus on singing; in a four-voice group he learned to mix high-velocity bebop vocalese and scat, the blues, standards, and African American folk music. They performed at Ronnie Scott’s, where Mwenso established a late-night jam session in 2007. It soon became a go-to spot not just for jazz musicians but also for millennial generation dancers, actors, artists, and general music fans. 

In 2009 Wynton Marsalis—who had met and befriended Mwenso in 1997—played a weeklong engagement at Ronnie Scott’s. After witnessing the vibrant scene that Mwenso had created, Marsalis invited him to move to New York and gave him a mandate to attract a younger, broader audience to Dizzy’s and Jazz at Lincoln Center while remaining true to Marsalis’s mantra: “All jazz is modern.” Mwenso’s success is evident: in 2012 he became curator and programming associate for Jazz at Lincoln Center; in November 2015 Christian McBride featured Mwenso and the Shakes on Jazz Night in America on NPR, and they performed for the Kennedy Center’s 2015 New Year’s Eve Gala.


Vuyo 2.JPG

vuyo Sotashe

The young South African jazz vocalist Vuyo (Vuyolwethu) Sotashe is gradually making his mark in the New York jazz scene. In 2015 he received his master’s in music from New Jersey’s William Paterson University, which he attended as a Fulbright Scholar. He won first prize at the first Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Vocal Competition in 2014, then performed on the festival’s main stage in 2015. He placed second overall at the 2015 Shure Montreux Jazz Festival International Voice Competition, where he won the Audience Prize. And at the 2015 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Vocal Competition, he was the first male vocal finalist in the history of the competition. 

Vuyo Sotashe has sung at the Arcevia Jazz Fest and the Fermo Jazz Festival in Italy; the Stockholm Jazz Festival with the South African National Youth Jazz Band; the Cape Town International Festival with George Benson; the Johannesburg Joy of Jazz Festival; with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra; and for the former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki. From 2009 to 2011 Sotashe toured with the SAMA Awardwinning band Proxy in the United Kingdom and IrelandThe next year he toured with Josh Groban during his final “Straight to You” tour. Sotashe has also performed with the Grammy-winning gospel artist Israel Houghton as part of the New Breed (Africa) Ensemble. And in 2015 Sotashe performed at the annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in New York. 

Vuyo Sotashe is currently performing around New York City, appearing with Michael Mwenso and the Shakes, as well as with many other New Yorkbased musicians. Al Jarreau, the legendary Grammy Awardwinning vocalist, has described Sotashe as “a one-man orchestra . . . he exudes so much joy and the jazz legend Freddy Cole called Sotashe a great young voice in jazz.”