Songs We Love Tour Group Photo




Featuring Rising Stars Who Have Performed on Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Stages and Beyond


Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents – SONGS WE LOVE: 50 Years of Jazz Song features Riley Mulherkar as Musical Director, with Vuyo Sotashe,

Brianna Thomas and Shenel Johns on vocals with Julian Lee, Mariel Bildsten, Mathis Picard,

Barry Stephenson and TJ Reddick.

New York, NY (February 3, 2022) —From March 3-19, some of today’s rising stars in jazz music will perform Songs We Love, a journey through the first 50 years of jazz song, in performing arts centers and concert halls in the U.S. Under the musical direction of Riley Mulherkar, 3 guest vocalists will join an all-star band made up of New York’s rising stars. Combining their distinct talents, the group will sing their way through four decades of music, beginning with the early blues and jazz of the 1920s and ending in the early 1950s. Iconic singers to be explored include Ma Rainey, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.

The Songs We Love tour kicks off in March with nine-shows throughout the north, east coast and south. Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents – SONGS WE LOVE: 50 Years of Jazz Song features Riley Mulherkar as Musical Director, with Vuyo Sotashe, Brianna Thomas and Shenel Johns on vocals with Julian Lee, Mariel Bildsten, Mathis Picard, Barry Stephenson and TJ Reddick.

Songs We Love was first presented as the 2016 Season Opener at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. For over three decades, Jazz at Lincoln Center has been a leading advocate for jazz, culture, and arts education globally. Under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, and with the world-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and guest artists spanning genres and generations, JALC produces thousands of performance, education, and broadcast events each season in its home in New York City, and around the world for people of all ages.

The JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER PRESENTS touring initiative provides a new opportunity to present great jazz programming, featuring up-and-coming musicians who have been identified as rising stars by JALC. The initiative also allows for expansion of the mission of JALC “to entertain, enrich and expand a global community for jazz through performance, education, and advocacy.”

Riley Mulherkar has been recognized as a “smart young trumpet player” by The New York Times and praised by The Wall Street Journal as a “youngster to keep an eye on.” Riley is a founding member of The Westerlies, a new music brass quartet that creates the rarest of hybrids: music that is both “folk-like and composerly, lovely and intellectually rigorous” (NPR Music). Riley works with a number of leading artists of our time, including Wynton Marsalis, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Alan Cumming, and Anna Deavere Smith. Born and raised in Seattle, Riley moved to New York to study at The Juilliard School, and received the Knowles Prize for Jazz and the Peter Mennin Prize for outstanding achievement and leadership in music. In 2011, Riley was named a “rising jazz artist” by Wynton Marsalis in JET magazine, and in 2014 was the first recipient of the Laurie Frink Career Grant at the Festival of New Trumpet Music. Riley is actively engaged in educational outreach, founding the music program at START Osceola, directing the Summer Advanced Institute at Seattle JazzEd, and serving as an ambassador for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “Jazz for Young People” program in New York and St. Louis. All of this experience and accolades position him as the perfect musical director for Songs We Love.

“I first heard Riley when he was a freshman in high school. He shocked and delighted us with his playing. Over the years he has grown and matured into a first-class artist. Not only is he a fantastic trumpet player with an original style of improvising, he is an original bandleader, composer, arranger, educator, community activist and advocate for jazz and the arts. He’s been a tremendous music director for Songs We Love, the first show in our new Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents touring initiative, which features the next generation of up-and-coming jazz stars.” —Wynton Marsalis (Managing & Artistic Director, Jazz at Lincoln Center)

Vocalists on tour include the fast rising young South African jazz vocalist Vuyo Sotashe, who moved to NYC in 2013 after being awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to pursue Master of Music at William Paterson University. Since then, he has gone to win numerous awards including first prize at the very first Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Vocal Competition in 2014, and more recently, he won the Audience prize award and placed second over-all at the Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition in 2015. Brianna Thomas is another vocalist making waves and has been described by The NY Times stating, “Ms. Thomas has a strong voice and a big range, descended from Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter and routed through Dianne Reeves, with clarity and confidence and a little dirt.” Rounding out the vocalists with a voice that embodies grace and passion and a personal style that sways effortlessly from jazz to R&B to gospel is Shenel Johns, who has emerged as one of the shining stars of her generation.

Accompanying Riley Mulherkar and the three guest vocalists is Julian Lee, who quickly established himself as one of the most sought after and versatile saxophonists of his generation. He is the recipient of the 2017 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award from Jazz At Lincoln Center, and has performed both internationally and nationally with a wide array of critically acclaimed artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, and Jon Batiste. Also joining is Mariel Bildsten on trombone, known as the lead trombonist in Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra and tours internationally with the rock band Brass Against. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Radio City, O2 Arena, Birdland Jazz Club, the Apollo Theater, the Chicago Jazz Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, Caramoor Jazz Festival, Smalls Jazz Club, and Smoke Jazz Club, among other venues. On piano is French-Malagasy pianist Mathis Picard who recently released his new album Live At The Museum, showcasing his diverse talent. Considered one of the most sought-after bassists on the scene today, Barry Stephenson also joins the tour with his raw talent. On drums is TJ Reddick, already a world traveler, who has performed in many countries including France, Brazil and Belize. TJ is an energetic musician ready to light up any stage. Together these musicians bring a young dynamic vibe to each performance that you won’t want to miss.

Select markets will also include “Let Freedom Swing” educational shows. Let Freedom Swing brings outstanding jazz artists and performances to community audiences. Inspired by conversations between former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, Let Freedom Swing includes three jazz concerts: Jazz and Democracy, Jazz and the Great Migration, and Jazz and Civil Rights. Since 2013, Let Freedom Swing has reached nearly half a million students in over 3,000 concerts around the world. For more info


Tour Dates

March 03 @ Arts Commons – Jack Singer Concert Hall – Calgary, AB [Link]

March 06 @ Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts – Scottsdale, AZ * [Link]

March 09 @ Lyric Theatre – Stuart, FL [Link]

March 10 @ Tribby Arts Center – Fort Myers, FL

March 11 @ Christensen Performance Hall – Sanibel, FL [Link]

March 12 @ South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center – Miami, FL [Link]

March 15 @ Newberry Opera House – Newberry, SC [Link]

March 18 @ SUNY Potsdam – Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall – Potsdam, NY [Link]

March 19 @ The Paramount Theatre – Rutland, VT [Link]


*Let Freedom Swing (March 07 Educational Show)


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