Past Event

Jazzonia Pt. 1: April 20

Historian John Reddick discusses the evolution of jazz poetry with Shanelle Gabriel, Samora Pinderhughes and Laura Pegram. This session will include a performance by Andre Chez Lewis.



John Reddick currently serves as a curator and discussion leader for the Harlem Focus series at the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Center. Reddick has applied his knowledge of Harlem’s culture and architecture towards work he has done with the Heritage Health & Housing: Heritage Heights Village Business Improvement, the Apollo Theater and the Harlem One Stop. He has worked on public art & space projects at a number of Harlem-based organizations including Abyssinian Development Corporation, the Ralph Ellison Memorial Committee, Harriet Tubman Square and Frederick Douglass Circle, among others. Reddick also served as President of Cityscape Institute and held leadership positions at the Central Park Conservancy. Reddick received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Ohio State University and a Master of Architecture from Yale University.



Shanelle Gabriel is a poet, singer, and educator from Brooklyn, NY who has performed internationally including Africa and Europe. Widely known for featuring on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, she has shared the stage with artists such as Jill Scott, Nas, Dave Chapelle and more. She was listed as one of’s “Artist Activists You Should Know” and one of “8 Millennial Feminist Poets That Deserve Recognition” by Shanelle is also a health activist who has spoken alongside the President of the National Institute of Health, on Capitol Hill, and has featured on the Lifetime Network, in Women’s Health magazine, and more about her continued battle with lupus. Presently, she is working on her third album, pursuing her Master’s in Education at Columbia University Teachers College while serving as the Interim Executive Director at Urban Word NYC, a youth organization that uses poetry & hip-hop to promote literacy and youth voice.



Laura Pegram is a multidisciplinary artist who is influencing a new generation of aspiring writers. Author, educator, and a jazz vocalist whose cabaret performance teamed her with jazz pianist, Donald Smith, Ms. Pegram is also a painter. Her richly hued vibrant murals are part of several private collections. She has worked as a Development Associate at Scholastic Productions, Inc., as an Instructor at the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center and as an Acting Director / Instructor at the John Oliver Killens Young Writers Program.


Samora Pinderhughes was born a mixed-race kid in the Bay Area, a hotbed of revolutionary organizing and incredible music and art that immediately seeped into his soul. He started playing music at 2 yrs old; His father played him The Delfonics, Tupac, and Bob Marley, while his mother introduced him to Nina Simone, Fela Kuti, and Pete Seeger.

He became serious about making music his life after living in Cuba studying spiritual musical traditions. He moved to NYC to study at Juilliard under master teachers Kenny Barron and Kendall Briggs; It was during this time that he also met his artistic mentor, MacArthur-winning playwright Anna Deavere Smith. This started him down the path of writing lyrics and combining film/theatre with his music in radical new ways.

With the help of these mentors, Samora eventually began to create his very own unique style, a combination of striking intimacy and carefully crafted, radically honest lyrics with lush, immersive music, maximalist visual storytelling and high levels of concept.

Samora is currently pursuing a PHD in Creative Practice and Critical Inquiry under mentor Vijay Iyer at Harvard University.


Andre “Chez” Lewis, known as Chez (Born July 17, 1990), is a pianist/music teacher/music director from Detroit, MI, now residing in Brooklyn, NY. Chez was given a scholarship by renowned jazz saxophonist and composer Frank Foster to attend Berklee College Of Music in 2008. After 2 semesters, he was hired as a Broadway pianist and moved to NYC in 2009. Since then Chez has worked with Broadway shows: “Dreamgirls On Tour”, “Memphis The Musical”, “Motown”, “Memphis The Musical On Tour”, “Holler If You Hear Me”, and was the music director for Off-Broadway shows: “What They’ll Remember”at The Nuyorican, and “The Eve Of Jackie: A Tribute To Jackie Wilson” at the National Black Theatre Festival. In 2013, Chez received the “Rising Star Award” at the 41st annual Audelco Awards For Excellence In Black Theatre. In 2014, Chez was introduced to and began to study with jazz legend, Dr. Barry Harris. Barry Harris sparked Chez’s love of jazz and heavily influenced his playing. In 2018, Chez received the “Leroy Applin’s Young Lions Award” at the 19th annual Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival. He now teaches beginner and advanced piano at Riverbank State Park in Harlem, and currently, Chez is a pianist for the Grammy Award Winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. Chez has played internationally in Tokyo (Japan), Milan/Naples/Rome/Brindisi (Italy), Accra (Ghana), Bermuda, and Barbadoes. Chez is currently a student at The New School of Performing Arts studying ‘Jazz and Contemporary Music’.

About the Series:
This series will consist of three events beginning with a panel moderated by historian John Reddick to discuss the history of jazz and poetry leading to creation of the jazz poetry genre. The second and third events will be pairings of spoken word artists performing their work atop a live band playing selections from jazz legends.

Curated by Kendolyn Walker, producer of City Love NYC and host of City Love On The Radio.