Charenée Wade Quartet with Brianna Thomas

Charenée Wade is not one to hold back or let fear stand in her way. The first artist ever to enter two Thelonious Monk Vocal competitions, she walked away from the second one in 2010. Known for her expert vocal improvisational ability and her seriously swinging groove, Wade evokes a classic jazz sound akin to Betty Carter and Sarah Vaughan, two of her musical touchstones. On her latest CD as a leader, Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson she pays tribute to another inspiration, the socially conscious poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron, and confirms that she too plans to use her artist platform thoughtfully.

In addition to being a skilled and powerful vocalist, Charenée Wade is a composer, arranger and educator who received her degree from the Manhattan School of Music. Her accolades include Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Program where she performed her original music at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC; being one of the talented four chosen for the Dianne Reeves Young Artist Workshop at Carnegie Hall; 1st Runner-Up in the Jazzmobile Vocal Competition; and being selected for the JAS Academy Summer Sessions, 2007-09, directed by Christian McBride. She has performed and recorded with a diverse array of musicians including: Bobby Sanabria, TerriLynn Carrington, Rufus Reid, Aaron Diehl, Eric Reed, Jonathan Blake, Lonnie Plaxico, Matt Wilson, Stefon Harris, Cecil Bridgewater, Alvester Garnett and Tia Fuller among many others.

Charenée is currently a professor at the Aaron Copland School of Music, City College, and with the Jazzmobile Workshop program. She teaches master classes, workshops and clinics all over the world and judged the 2010 Jazzmobile Vocal Competition, alongside Dr. Billy Taylor and Grady Tate. Charenée tours internationally with her working quartet and has graced the stages of such illustrious venues and festivals as: Ronnie Scotts, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Detroit Jazz Festival, the San Javier Jazz Festival, A Love Supreme Festival and the Akbank Jazz Festival in Istanbul.

“Ms. Wade is a jazz singer of commanding skill, an heir to the legacies of Betty Carter and Carmen McRae.” – The New York Times

Brianna Thomas, born and raised in Peoria Illinois, grew up surrounded by music. Her father, Charlie Thomas, not only influenced her with his own unique talents as a vocalist and percussionist, he created an exceptionally well-rounded musical environment that fostered Brianna’s emerging abilities. At the tender age of six, Brianna made her singing debut performing a duet rendition of the jazz classic, “What A Wonderful World” with her father. At the age of eight she won her first of thirteen trophies, all first place and overall, from various district and regional talent shows. Between the ages of eight and ten she had her first gigs performing for a variety of banquets, black tie affairs and as a guest on local radio stations. It didn’t take long for people to notice her talent and potential. Just shy of her teens, Brianna’s talents were discovered by distinguished jazz educator Mary Jo Papich. Soon after, Brianna toured Europe with the Peoria Jazz All-Stars, a big band under Ms. Papich’s direction. This was the beginning of Brianna’s career as jazz vocalist.

Brianna’s singing is deeply enriched by an understanding of the masterful voices of jazz past. Beyond a healthy serving of sass, Sarah Vaughn’s influence contributes to Brianna’s style the artistic savvy needed to communicate myriad moods and feelings as well as a keen instrumental perspective. Add to that a coyness reminiscent of Nancy Wilson, an Ella-esque skill and enthusiasm for scatting, and the stylistic breadth and vocal grandeur evocative of Dianne Reeves. Perhaps Brianna’s greatest asset is the soulfulness of her sound. Captivatingly unique, her sound moves in tones ranging from sweet invitations to assured convictions, establishing a personal and classic quality that leaves listeners swooning after her performances.

Brianna’s talents have propelled her to many successes and performances around the globe. Brianna was a resident in both the 2001 and 2002 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Programs. At “Jazz Ahead” she worked with a host of premier jazz educators and performers including renowned vocalist Carmen Lundy, Winard Harper and Nathan Davis. Brianna’s extensive list of stateside performances includes appearances with Fred Anderson, Von Freeman, Houston Person and the Barber Brothers. In 2001, Thomas was awarded “High School Jazz Vocalist of the Year” by Down Beat magazine. Notably, Brianna Thomas is the youngest person ever to be inducted into Peoria’s African-American Hall of Fame at the age of thirteen in 1996. She has also received a certificate of excellence from the state of Illinois in recognition of her musical accomplishments.

The words of legendary trombonist Curtis Fuller best illustrate Brianna Thomas’ abilities, hailing her as a “marvelous new artist who has all it takes to reach the top of the jazz profession and music in general.”

Location: American Folk Art Museum – Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets
Time: 6:00pm, 7:00pm & 8:00pm