About Afro Blue
Howard Universityʼs premier vocal jazz ensemble, Afro Blue, was formed by Professor Connaitre Miller in the spring of 2002. Performing music similar to the styles of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross; The Manhattan Transfer and Take 6 while adding their own unique sound, this “vocal big band” has performed to wide critical acclaim. Afro Blue has been featured on NPRʼs All Things Considered; reached the top four on The Sing-Off, NBC TVʼs a cappella group competition and joined the legendary Bobby McFerrin in selections from his Grammy-nominated VOCAbuLarieS album during the 2011 DC Jazz Festival in what has been called “the finest concert in DC Jazz Festival history.” They have established a continuing relationship with The John F. Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts having opened for The Manhattan Transfer and Jon Hendricks, performed with The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Pops under the direction of Marvin Hamlisch and shared the stage with former Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz, Dr. Billy Taylor.
Highlights of Afro Blueʼs history have been their collaborations with world-class jazz pianist and Howard University alumna Geri Allen. The ensemble has been honored to have joined Ms. Allen in the premiere of her commissioned piece For The Healing of the Nations: A Sacred Jazz Suite for the Victims and Survivors of 9/11; for a performance of Mary Louʼs Mass for the 15th Anniversary of the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at The Kennedy Center and in an all-star line-up this past June at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York for the 2012 Celebrate Brooklyn! concert series. Afro Blue will once again join Geri Allen in May 2013 at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem for the concert “Celebrating the Great Jazz Women of the Apollo” featuring Diane Reeves, Lizz Wright, Terri Lyne Carrington, and others.
Since its existence, Afro Blue has been awarded multiple Student Music Awards (SMA) by DownBeat Magazine for Graduate College Vocal Jazz Ensemble and individual members of the ensemble have been recognized as Outstanding Jazz Vocal Soloists and Arrangers. In 2011 Afro Blue was named Jazz Artist of the Year by the Washington City Paper and also received the Spotlight Award from the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) for bringing national attention to the Washington, DC music scene. Most recently, Afro Blue received Washington Area Music Awards (Wammies) for Best A Cappella Group and Album of the Year (for their CD release The Best Is Yet to Come).
The ensemble evolves as student members graduate from Howard University and new members are auditioned and trained. The current Afro Blue roster consists of vocalists Imani-Grace Cooper, Irene Jalenti, George Kilpatrick III, Taylar Lee, Ayodele Owolabi, Peter Roberts, Devin Robinson, Matthew Robinson, Jillian Willis, and Marissa Zechinato.