Catskill Jazz Factory comes to Mezzrow: The prodigious multi-genre pianist and artist Damien Sneed is joined by one of today's top rising vocalists in jazz, Shenel Johns, for an evening of gospel and blues.
“An ambassador for classical and gospel music… His talent stretches across traditional divisions. In the realest sense, he uses his artistry to make our world a better place.” —Wynton Marsalis on Damien Sneed
About Damien Sneed: Damien Sneed is a multi-genre recording artist and a 2014 recipient of the prestigious Sphinx Medal of Excellence honor, which is presented annually to emerging Black and Latino leaders in classical music, Sneed has also garnered attention in a wide range of other musical genres, including jazz, gospel, pop, R&B, opera and musical theatre. He has already been featured in the New York Times multiple times for his work in various genres. A pianist, organist, vocalist, conductor, composer, producer, arranger, and arts educator, Sneed has worked with legends such as Aretha Franklin, Wynton Marsalis, Jessye Norman, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and Ashford & Simpson, Wycliffe Gordon, and Eric Reed. He has served as music director for GRAMMY® Award-winning gospel artists, including Kim Burrell, The Clark Sisters, Richard Smallwood, Donnie McClurkin, Hezekiah Walker, Marvin Sapp, Karen Clark Sheard, Dorinda Clark-Cole and Kierra Sheard. He also served as musical director for season four of Sunday Best, Black Entertainment Television’s (BET) hit award-winning gospel singing competition show. In May 2015, he was tapped by Tony Award winner, George Faison as the musical director and conductor for the CityParks Foundation’s Central Park’s Summer Stage production of The Wiz: A Celebration in Dance & Music. The production included Phylicia Rashad, André De Shields, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lillias White and Ebony Jo-Ann.
Sneed brings his many talents in multiple genres to his solo projects. His first live solo recording project, Introspections LIVE, takes the listener on a musical journey through his development as a performer, and includes classical, jazz and gospel music. The recording features performances by nearly 50 instrumentalists and vocalists from various genres of music. Introspections LIVE, which was recorded at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre in 2010, is a collection of musical reflections of the most memorable moments of his life—ones that have shaped his musical artistry.
An acclaimed artist with a global reach, Sneed has performed in Europe, Japan, the U.S. Virgin Islands, South America, Africa and the United States. He also has performed at historic national and international events, including the 2012 Olympics in London and activities related to the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Sneed performed in Washington, DC at A Celebration of America at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Eisenhower Theater on the eve of President Obama’s Inauguration and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2013. The event was hosted by Angela Bassett, Courtney Vance, Wynton Marsalis, and retired United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Guest artists included Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Jessye Norman, Dave Brubeck, Paquito D’Rivera, Roy Haynes, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, among others.
About Shenel Johns: With a voice that embodies grace and passion and a personal style that sways effortlessly from jazz to R&B to gospel, Shenel Johns has emerged as one of the shining stars of her generation. A native of Hartford, CT, Johns has been performing since she was fourteen years of age, and has developed a distinctive, eclectic style that has increasingly caught the attention of her peers and some of the industry’s top performers.
Johns received a bachelor’s degree in music management from the Jackie McLean Institute at the Hartt School of Music and studied performance with such jazz legends as Rene McLean, Jimmy Greene, and Nat Reeves. She has shared the stage with music royalty including Curtis Fuller, Hank Jones, Dionne Warwick, and Sheila Jordan, and has performed and recorded with an impressive array of leaders in the field including Dominic Farinacci, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ulysses Owens, Jr., Ronnie Burrage, and Eddie Palmieri, among numerous others.
In 2016, Johns completed a musical residency at Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha in Qatar and, several months later, honored Billie Holiday as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s New York production of “Billie and the Boys.” She has also performed a tribute to another of her idols, Lena Horne, at New York City’s famed Appel Theater, and toured throughout Russia in 2015 and 2016.
Most recently, Johns was the winner of the Riga Jazz Stage Competition this past April in Riga, Latvia, and was featured in the Hartford Jazz Festival in July with the Harford Symphony Orchestra as part of an Ella Fitzgerald Tribute. Johns has also premiered works at New York’s Museum of Modern Arts (Jacob Lawrence Installation of Northern Migration) and is a member of the George Gee Swing Orchestra that performs regularly in-and-around New York City.