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A Jazz 'Family,' Formed Late At Night

Michael Mwenso is a curator for the Late Night Sessions at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. He's also an irrepressible vocalist and natural ringleader who draws inspiration from the communal aspects of making jazz.

"I was interested in the human pathos of the music, as well as the music," he says. "But the human thing was really interesting to me. Then to also see the effect of when jazz is really being played, like manifested — you'd see a musician playing and you see people going crazy and hollering. That was very... how do you create that?"

Mwenso's enthusiasm has drawn many up-and-coming artists to Jazz at Lincoln Center after hours — and after-after-hours, in off-campus listening parties. The shared experience of being young and eager (and talented) musicians in the big city has given rise to a loose collective known as The Shakes. As it turns out, all the time spent together offstage translates directly to how Mwenso and his "family" perform in the spotlight.

Here, Jazz Night In America hangs out with Michael Mwenso and The Shakes as they prepare for and seize an opportunity to present their own ideas of how to run a show. Watch highlights from the family's performance at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola — and, on the radio program, a special breakout segment featuring rising trumpeter Riley Mulherkar.

Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.