Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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Lincoln Center’s American Songbook to pay tribute to diverse, unsung NYC

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts has announced the newest American Songbook series, celebrating the sounds and scenes that have made New York City a cultural mecca for generations. American Songbook: A Place You Belong, is on April 1–21, 2023. Tickets are now on sale.

Conceived by writer, filmmaker and Tony Award-winning director George C. Wolfe, this year’s series embodies the spirit of four iconic NYC venues where creativity and discovery flourished—led by artists who could not find creative homes in the City’s larger, more established venues. The communities established in these locations paved the way for now legendary artists, creating new genres, and irrevocably shaping modern music and culture across the country.

Midtown’s mambo powerhouse the Palladium Ballroom; Soho’s gay underground dance haven, Paradise Garage; Harlem’s home of Lindy Hop, the Savoy Ballroom; and the West Village cabaret Café Society, one of the first racially integrated nightclubs in North America, are celebrated in a series of shows that pay homage to their rich legacies, while spotlighting modern performers with new takes on now classic sounds.

“This year’s American Songbook series, ‘A Place You Belong,’ collaborates with modern artists, musicians and comedians to celebrate four historic NYC venues that nurtured underground creatives and communities throughout the 20th century,” said Shanta Thake, Ehrenkranz Chief Artistic Officer, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. “We’re thrilled to have worked on the concept with George C. Wolfe, an iconic American artist whose work has always been deeply rooted to history and place-making.”

Nathaniel Rateliff

American Songbook: A Place You Belong kicks off April 1 in David Geffen Hall, NYC’s newest cultural hub, with singer-songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff. This special performance, aptly titled A Little Touch of Rateliff, sees Rateliff and his orchestra perform Harry Nilsson’s 1973 LP of Great American Songbook standards A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night from start to finish, in celebration of the album’s 50th anniversary.

Next in David Geffen Hall, Academy Award winner and Tony-nominated actress, singer and dancer Ariana DeBose debuts an original solo concert created with her long-time Musical Director Benjamin Rauhala. Authenticity showcases an array of musical influences–­including Dionne Warwick, Stephen Sondheim, Judy Garland, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ray Charles, and ABBA–that display DeBose’s unique perspective as an artist through an intergenerational song list.

Ariana DeBose

In the 1930s and 1940s, Greenwich Village was home to the basement nightclub Café Society, one of the first racially integrated nightclubs in the United States and a pivotal stage for dance, cabaret and comedy. Known for pushing the musical and political envelope, the space saw performances by stars like Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, who debuted her devastating protest song “Strange Fruit” at the end of her set. In honor of Café Society’s enduring impact, The Appel Room plays host to three nights of cabaret led by house band the Matt Ray Trio, featuring performances from bombshell chanteuse Rizo and comedian Ikechukwu Ufomadu, Grammy-nominated R&B artist and Broadway star Mykal Kilgore and comedian Aminah Imani, and singer-songwriter Raye Zaragoza and comedian Jordan Carlos, with each night ending with a special guest performing Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.”

Decades later, Paradise Garage became a pioneering, underground house music dance club, and haven for NYC’s queer community of color. Its longtime resident DJ, Larry Levan, known for his ability to craft and manipulate mood with his music selections, is a major influence on dance music today. Queer-owned and operated Brooklyn venue C’mon Everybody reimagines Paradise Garage in a one-night dance party blowout at the David Rubenstein Atrium with a set from DJ Samuella, hip hop drag provocateurs The Dragon Sisters and disco, Afrofuturist funk duo The Illustrious Blacks.

Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom was one of America’s most renowned dance and performance venues, birthplace of the Lindy Hop, and a beacon of integration. Its anti-discrimination policy led to a cultural cross-pollination and an influence on popular dance and music that still reverberates today. In the David Rubenstein Atrium, jazz vocalist Charles Turner & Uptown Swing and The Eyal Vilner Swing Band bring the spirit of the Savoy to life with a night of participatory live dance and music. The audience is joined on the dance floor by professional Savoy swing Lindy Hoppers from choreographer Caleb Teicher’s SW!NG OUT.

Closing out the American Songbook series is a tribute to The Palladium Ballroom, a place—like the Savoy Ballroom—where all were welcome. The club attracted New Yorkers from all races, ethnicities, and social classes with its weekly dance competitions and incomparable Latin orchestras, including its “Big Three” headline artists-in-residence: Machito, Tito Puente, and Tito Rodríguez. Relive the Palladium experience on the dance floor at the Atrium, with Tito Rodríguez, Jr., one of the leading timbaleros and bandleaders of salsa and Latin Jazz. Rodríguez Jr. and his band put a modern twist on mambo classics from the Palladium era.

American Songbook: A Place You Belong offers a mix of ticketing options including choose-what-you-pay and free shows. For more information on tickets and the full American Songbook series, visit AmericanSongbook.org.

Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty writing staff work hard to bring you all the latest articles to help inspire and inform.

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