When the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks clash on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium at Super Bowl XLVIII, they will need a stellar performance in order to match the run-up mega event at the Apollo Theater on Jan. 31.
The game will require a rash of spectacular touchdowns and sterling plays to equal the historic Black History Month gospel, R&B and jazz concert, which will be a memorable milestone, featuring four-time Grammy Award winner Regina Belle; Grammy-nominated Lalah Hathaway, daughter of the late, great Donny Hathaway; and extraordinary vocalist-songwriter Valerie Simpson, who teamed with her husband, Nick Ashford, to pen such renowned standards as “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I’m Every Woman.” The musical roots of these three great “Ladies of Song” are all steeped in gospel, and Simpson will be the recipient of the Mahalia Jackson Gospel Legacy Award.
“Our Ladies of Song,” in keeping with the event’s blend of style and substance saluting Super Bowl Week and Black History Month, will be backed by a roster of incomparable jazz notables such as Alex Bugnon, Lenny White and Victor Bailey. This prelude of sound will be embellished by big band arrangements of the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra, led by Justin DiCioccio, will showcase and National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Masters Cecil Bridgewater and Arturo O’Farrill.
Feb. 2 may be the big day for football fans, but on Jan. 31, “Friday Night in Harlem Let the Music Say Amen” will be a not-to-be-forgotten spectacular moment of celebration for music lovers. Complementing the jazz and R&B menus will be the gospel-inspired voices of the First Corinthian Baptist Church Mass Choir and a special Black History Month tribute to Nelson Mandela, performed by the Grammy- and Oscar-nominated Impact Repertory Theater. New Orleans renowned pianist and composer Jonathan Batiste will also perform and receive the prestigious Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Legacy Award, which makes sense because Batiste, like Armstrong, took a similar jazz-blues route from New Orleans on the way to landing in Harlem.
The evening will also, in tribute to Black History Month, give recognition to a diverse slate of historically black college and University alumni, including NBA immortal Earl “The Pearl” Monroe (Winston Salem State University), the esteemed Rev. Dr. James Forbes (Howard University) of Riverside Baptist Church, legendary sports writer Howie Evans (Maryland Eastern Shore) of the Amsterdam News, and Fox TV Sports analyst Pam Oliver (Florida A&M), who will be working the sidelines at the Super Bowl. All who attended historically black colleges and Universities (sororities, fraternities, alumni associations, etc.) are encouraged to support and attend this event.
The Amsterdam News is proud to be one of the concert’s sponsors, along with the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce (GHCC), WBLS and WLIB, among a coterie of others.
“It should be noted that the New York State NAACP Youth Programs, New York Road Runners ‘Mighty Milers’ Children’s Health Program and Manhattan School of Music Youth Summer Camp are the concert’s not-for-profit organizations who will be highlighted on Jan. 31,” said GHCC President Lloyd Williams. “This is the first Super Bowl hosted by two states, New Jersey and New York, and by combining this historic occasion with our salute to Black History Month honoring historically black college and universities, the evening will have additional and unforgettable significance. All are invited to attend.”
Only a Super Bowl double overtime thriller at MetLife can possibly compete with but won’t surpass “Friday Night in Harlem” at the Apollo. Tickets for this remarkable event are $55, $80 and $105. They are on sale now at Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) and the Apollo Theater box office (212-531-5355).