Jazzonia Pt. 2: May 4
Enjoy the pairings of spoken word by Altovise Laster and Berry atop Billie Holiday and Nina Simone selections, played by the City Love NYC band: Andre Chez Lewis, Kenji Tokunaga, Alex Durant and Kappa Tanabe.
Altovise Laster is an author, educator, poet and accomplished playwright residing in Brooklyn, New York. Originally from Pompano Beach, Florida, Altovise studied Theater at Florida A & M University. She then went on to obtain her BFA in Theater Performance from Florida International University. While at FIU, she wrote and created a one-woman show about Assata Shakur. Most recently she was invited to participate in Gilder Lehrman Summer Institute Teaching Seminars. She has also shared her work at the historic Langston Hughes House in Harlem. Altovise has a genuine passion for the written word. When she is not in the classroom, she finds joy in traveling and exploring the great outdoors.
Lacresha Berry, better known as Berry, is a singer/songwriter, actress, poet, educator, and writer from Queens by way of Lexington, Kentucky. She received her BA in Theatre from the University of Kentucky. She honed her playwriting skills there and went on to produce three one woman shows since 2002. Her last one woman show, “Browngirl. Bluegrass.” documented her life as a brown girl coming of age in the bluegrass state of Kentucky. She’s performed all over the country with the show as well as singing and hosting all over NYC. Her latest one woman show, TUBMAN, a reimagining of Harriet Tubman’s life as a young girl in Harlem, debuted to packed audiences in her hometown of Lexington, Ky, and NYC, with additional performances in San Diego, Rikers Island, New Bedford Massachusetts, Sacramento and Tubman’s birthplace in Cambridge, MD. When she’s not performing, she’s teaching spoken word to middle and high school students in the Bronx, conducting educational workshops, and writing curriculum. She is currently writing her debut YA novel, “Seeing Janelle”.
Kappa Tanabe is from Japan and moved to NYC in 2008. He works as a guitarist and composer. Kappa has worked with Chaka Khan, Zedd, Kehlani, Wyclef (Fugees), Common, Estelle, Joe, 112, Madison Beer, Syleena Johnson and more.
Born and raised in Long Island City, New York, Alex Durant started playing drums when he was just 3 years old and has played professionally for over 20 years. He has played at the legendary Apollo Theater, Lincoln Center, Bethesda Jazz Club, Highline Ballroom, Triad Theater and the Village Underground. He has played with Ron Grant, Farrah Boule, V. Bozeman, Derrick LeBlanc and Toni Blackman. Alex also shared his gift for festivals and special productions like “The Eve of Jackie Wilson” City Love NYC and the Connect the Lots Festival. He did his first live recording at 13 years old with his church choir. He has also worked with female Japanese artist, Kei Owada and is currently producing an album for Toni Ann Semple a New York city based artist.
Kenji Tokunaga is a professional bass player who is based in NY. He studied at the new school of jazz and has performed as a versatile musician in various kinds of music scene including jazz, R&B, hip hop and gospel. He has performed at the many worldly renowned venues including Blue Note and BB King’s. He has shared the stage with many renowned artists and musicians such as Force MDS, Angie Stone, Bobby Womack and Geno Young.
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.