Tiny Desk

Afro Blue

Afro Blue: Tiny Desk Concert

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/261392278/261397760" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

"Afro Blue" is a jazz standard written by Mongo Santamaria in 1959, with a lyric added later by Oscar Brown Jr. It's been performed countless times, by everyone from John Coltrane to Robert Glasper and Erykah Badu. The beautifully understated words include the phrases "undulating grace," "elegant boy," "beautiful girl," "shades of delight" and "cocoa hue."

Afro Blue, a nine-member a cappella troupe from Howard University in Washington, D.C., is all that and more. Its members sing as one with nuance, ease and experience, as if they've been singing together for years. But they haven't: The ensemble is ever-changing, as students graduate and new members audition for a coveted spot in the lineup.

Professor Connaitre Miller formed the vocal jazz ensemble in 2002. Afro Blue recently reached the final four on NBC's The Sing-Off, and it routinely performs at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. It played at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem with Dianne Reeves, and just recently was invited to the White House to perform for the president.

The list of awards and accolades continues to grow, as does the list of invitations to sing. But Miller often turns them down so that the students have enough time to study and don't miss class.

While it usually performs standard "vocal big band" songs and jazz blended with contemporary pop music, Afro Blue recently stopped by Bob Boilen's Tiny Desk to sing African-American spirituals — songs that can never grow old so long as talented young groups like Afro Blue sing them this well.

Set List
  • "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
  • "Motherless Child"
  • "Ain-a That Good News!"
Performers

Amelia Brown, Imani-Grace Cooper, John Kenniebrew, Taylar Lee, Ayodele Owolabi, Peter Roberts, Devin Robinson, Matthew Robinson, Shacara Rogers, Marissa Zechinato

Credits

Producers: Denise DeBelius, Suraya Mohamed; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Becky Harlan, Meredith Rizzo; photo by Abbey Oldham/NPR

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Antonio Lizana performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 25, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Antonio Lizana

The traditions of flamenco and jazz are disparate, but in the hands of a few Spanish jazz musicians, these two worlds commingle and find common ground.

Chicano Batman performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Mar., 30, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Chicano Batman

Chicano Batman comes with a sound that perfectly captures dark lounges, quinceñera dances, car shows and backyard parties.

Ljova & Kontraband perform at Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 13th 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Ljova And The Kontraband

Composer, arranger and viola player Ljova lead his Kontraband to the Tiny Desk for an eclectic swirl of Western classical, jazz, tango and Eastern European and Balkan folk music.

Sinkane performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 21, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Sinkane

You can hear a great New York jazz band in the rhythms of Sinkane, but you can also hear the influence of Bob Marley and the hypnotic repetition of Sudanese desert sounds.

Noname performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 28, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Noname

The power of language to penetrate a difficult subject, and the power of performance to share that language, are the gifts Noname brought to the Tiny Desk.

Delicate Steve performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Mar. 3, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Delicate Steve

This fierce and lyrical guitar player writes playful instrumental music led by hooky vocals — but there is no voice, just the human-like twang of a glass slide on a guitar.

Sampha performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 7, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Sampha

A Tiny Desk Concert as intimate as it gets (that's saying something). Just Sampha, a piano and three heart-wrenching songs that seem to double as coping mechanisms.

Red Baraat performs at Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 8, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Tiny Desk Special Edition: Red Baraat's Holi Celebration

The Brooklyn bhangra band come to the Tiny Desk in celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of color that welcomes the coming of spring.

Tank And The Bangas perform perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Mar. 6, 2017. (Niki Walker/NPR) Niki Walker/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Niki Walker/NPR

Tiny Desk

Tank And The Bangas

Tank And The Bangas' victory lap around the Tiny Desk was momentous, celebratory and deeply touching, with a flair and alchemy of styles that could come from New Orleans.

Maren Morris performs perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 16, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Maren Morris

One of the newest Grammy winners stops by the Tiny Desk to share her winking, sometimes tongue-in-cheek songs.

Back To Top