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

Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

Ben Folds

Performing solo, Folds performs three songs from his new album and two old favorites.

Tiny Desk Concert with Chelsea Wolfe. Ariel Zambelich/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Tiny Desk

Chelsea Wolfe

Wolfe takes three songs from the metallic Abyss and makes them howl by their lonesome.

Tiny Desk Concert with Car Seat Headrest. Jun Tsuboike/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

Car Seat Headrest

Will Toledo is a wordsmith with a vision, as well as a DIY sound that's still finely crafted.

Tiny Desk Concert with EL VY. NPR hide caption

toggle caption NPR

Tiny Desk

EL VY

The National's Matt Berninger and Menomena's Brent Knopf team up in an intimate setting.

Tiny Desk Concert with The Arcs. Jessica Mowery/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jessica Mowery/NPR

Tiny Desk

The Arcs

It's our 500th show at the Tiny Desk, featuring The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and his new band.

Tiny Desk Concert with Wolf Alice. NPR hide caption

toggle caption NPR

Tiny Desk

Wolf Alice

The band's music can be noisy and primal, but at the Tiny Desk it showed a different side.

Tiny Desk Concert with River Whyless. Jun Tsuboike/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

River Whyless

The North Carolina band fills its rootsy music with unexpected instruments and clever ideas.

Tiny Desk Concert with Benny Sings. Morgan Walker/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Morgan Walker/NPR

Tiny Desk

Benny Sings

The Dutch singer layers R&B, jazz and pop over hip-hop beats in his first-ever U.S. appearance.

Tiny Desk Concert with Natalie Merchant Jun Tsuboike /NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike /NPR

Tiny Desk

Natalie Merchant

The singer-songwriter gives a warmhearted performance of two new songs, an old favorite and a hymn.

Tiny Desk Concert with Mariachi Flor De Toloache Jun Tsuboike/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

Mariachi Flor De Toloache

While on tour with The Arcs, the powerhouse mariachi band performs live in the NPR Music offices.

Back To Top