Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Vy Higginsen Pays Tribute to Jazz Legends and Their Music at Harlem’s Historic Minton’s Playhouse

Vy Higginsen’s Harlem Sings Jazz opens Wednesday, February 27th at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, NY. A tribute to the greats! The pioneering legends of jazz come alive in Vy Higginsen’s recreation of the mid-century night club experience. A quartet of unmatched vocal talent backed by a three-piece jazz band evoke the intimate vibes and speakeasy atmosphere of Harlem’s history. Presented by Mama Foundation for the Arts, Harlem Sings Jazz features hits from Lena Horn, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstine, Sammy Davis, Jr., Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, and more.

The musical tribute stars Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson (Mama, I Want to Sing), Elijah Ahmad Lewis (Motown, the Musical), Matthew Burke (Alive! 55+ and Kickin’), and Anwar Robinson (American Idol) who also serves as the production’s music director with band members Andre Cleghorn (bass) and Malachi “MJL” Lewis (drums) under creative producing team Vy Higginsen and Ken Wydro. Performances will take place at Minton’s Playhouse, the nation’s oldest jazz club, which rose to prominence during the early 1940’s due to its large influence in the development of modern jazz and bebop. Minton’s was home to the famous jam sessions that propelled the likes of Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. 

Harlem Sings Jazz is presented in partnership with Tito’s Handmade Vodka and will perform two sets on Wednesdays February 27, March 6, 13, and 20, 2019. Doors open at 6:00pm for a 7:30pm set, and doors at 9:00pm for a 9:30pm set. Admission is $20 plus a two drink minimum during the one-hour performance. Minton’s Playhouse is located at 206 W 118th Street, New York, NY 10026 between St. Nicholas and Seventh Avenues. Public transportation: B/C, 2/3 Trains to 116th Street. Visit for reservations.

Vy Higginsen, (Producer) noted author, playwright, radio and TV personality, has garnered an excellent reputation and won many awards for providing high quality products and services to African-American audiences. After a decade of being behind the microphone and on major New York stations (WBLS-FM, WWRL-AM, WRKS-FM), Vy published and edited Unique NY, a lifestyles magazine designed for African-Americans and tourists.

In 1983, Vy co-wrote, produced and directed the classic black Gospel musical Mama I Want To Sing!, which ran for eight years and 2,200 performances at the Off-Broadway Heckscher Theater in East Harlem. In March 1986, Mama began a national tour of the USA, playing two consecutive years throughout major cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles/San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington. International tours include Austria, Japan, Germany, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia. Mama also played for six months on the West End of London.  In March 1988, Vy co-produced Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson on Broadway. In 2002, Vy was ordained as an Interfaith Minister. Led by her passion for the sounds and music she grew up hearing, Vy conceived and created Alive! which documents the sounds, music, and stories of our black American musical landscape.

Vy continues to write and produce original work as the Executive Director of the Emmy Award-winning Mama Foundation for the Arts in Harlem, New York.

Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson grew up backstage and on tour across the USA, Japan and Europe with Mama, I Want to Sing. At seven years old, she performed in Sing: Mama 2 with Shirley Caesar at Madison Square Garden. Higginson attended the Professional Children's School, Professional Performing Arts High School, Manhattan School of Music, and the American Dramatic and Music Academy (AMDA). She has performed internationally and is featured on recordings for numerous productions including the next generation of Mama, I Want to Sing, in which she starred as Doris Winter.

At Mama Foundation for the Arts, she resides as Program Director of the Gospel for Teens program, as Music Master for workshops and private lessons, and as Music Director of the Sing Harlem Choir.

Elijah Ahmad Lewis a singer, actor, dancer, songwriter/arranger, recording artist and overall entertainer has been performing since 7 years of age. He graduated from the Cicely L. Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts and also studied at NYU's Cap 21 Program. Elijah has been seen and heard in numerous productions and recordings with the Mama Company including Mama, I Want To Sing and Sing Harlem Sing. He serves as Music Director and Vocal Instructor for the Gospel For Teens Program and serves as co - Music Director for the Sing Harlem Choir.

He recently just returned from playing Stevie Wonder in Broadway's Motown The Musical in the first and second national touring company and returning Broadway company. ​Elijah is the CEO and Head Designer for LaCrafts Creations (Graphic Design and Branding Company) and the director of all visuals and media that involves the Mama Foundation for the Arts and all brands and products that fall under the mega umbrella. His music can be found on Spotify and all digital platforms.

Rev. Matthew Burke serves as overseer of True Worship Temple of God Outreach Ministries, Inc. He also serves as a member of the NYPD Clergy Task Force, Clergy Action network (Brooklyn, NY). A motivational speaker and independent contractor for small business, Rev. Burke also advocates for at-risk youth within the New York City court system. As a performer, Rev. Burke has most recently been seen starring in Alive! 55+ and Kickin’ and Let the Music Play Gospel.

Anwar Robinson (Music Directoris presently living his best life as a recording artist, private school educator, front singer of a touring orchestra, Creative Arts Director, piano and vocal coach to the stars.  Anwar most recently completed his tenure as Artistic Music Director at United Palace of Spiritual Arts, Inc. (formerly known as United Christian Evangelistic Association). Anwar is a former member of the Board of Directors of United Palace of Cultural Arts, Inc.   Anwar also served four years as an educator and Director of Creative Arts at The IDEAL School of Manhattan.  He is currently preparing for an 11 city motivational speaking and performance tour.  Anwar's music ministry, career in education and entertainment began shortly after accomplishing his Bachelor of Arts in Music Education & Voice at Westminster Choir College | Rider University.  Anwar was once a member of a short-lived R&B group that signed with music industry legend Clive Davis.  Anwar then built the groundwork to transition into a successful indie solo recording artist which garnered national exposure and lead to working with countless Pop, R&B and Broadway artists including Patti Labelle, Ashford & Simpson, Carole Bayer Sager, Kenny Babyface Edmonds, Lillias White, the Clark Sisters, Kelly Price, Peggi Blu and more.  Anwar ultimately landed a principal role in the touring company of RENT the musical, GODSPELL, the original workshop of E. Lynn Harris' Invisible Life, and he is most notably recognized for achieving a top finalist position on the world renowned televised competition AMERICAN IDOL.

In addition, Anwar's professional experience includes years as a public school teacher, master class assistant at Fiorello H. Laguardia High School Of Music & Art and Performing Arts, consultant and developer of spiritual arts programs and curriculum for private schools.  Anwar is a cohort member of NYSAIS (New York State Association of Independent Schools) and achieved their Certification for Emerging Leaders.  Anwar has worked with The Harlem School of Arts, consulted various Charter Schools, has produced youth enrichment programs and facilitated partnerships with Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.  Anwar has served as an Inspirational Speaker, musician, and solo gospel concert vocalist at many renowned faith-based institutions  including The Marble Collegiate, St. Bartholomew's, and The Abyssinian Baptist Church.  In addition to recording, Anwar currently enjoys entertaining and singing with the amazing Code Bleu | Skyline Orchestras.  Anwar is managed and partnered with the international branding firm JW2 Entertainment and he is a trustee of the Williams-Robinson Music Academy. 

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