Jazzonia Pt.3: May 18
Enjoy the pairings of spoken word by Nkosi Nkululeko and Smoove Babii atop Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk selections, played by the City Love NYC band: Andre Chez Lewis, Kenji Tokunaga, Alex Durant and Kappa Tanabe.
Smoove Babii, whose real name is Alphonso Kenny. He was born and raised in the Bronx. He began writing poetry in 2010 once his beloved grandmother Annie Johnson passed away. Although at first, it was a way to counter his anger, throughout the years he started to fall in love with poetry. He likes to refer to his as “Ghetto Gospel” which stems from his personal experiences from 183rd and Walton. His raw, heartfelt, and unique approach has allowed him to grow as a performer. This has allowed him to bring his “battle rap” style to what he feels poetry is missing. Smoove has been known to call The Langston Hughes House his home. He has also released his first book entitled Ghetto Gospel available now for $12. Smoove would like his readers to know his poetry is for them to never feel alone. He wants his stories and performances to connect and bring light to the mishaps in life. So readers, feel free to yell through him as we decipher his Ghetto Gospel.
Nkosi Nkululeko, a 2017 Poets House and 2018 Saltonstall Foundation of the Arts Fellow, is the winner of Michigan Quarterly Review’s Page Davidson Clayton Prize for Emerging Poets 2018. His poetry can be found in journals such as Callaloo, Tripwire #17, The Offing, and Ploughshares. Nkosi’s poem “Skin Deep,” formerly published in The Adroit Journal, is anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2018. He is also anthologized in The Bettering American Vol. 3 and Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry. Nkosi Nkululeko is a chess and music instructor from Harlem, New York.
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.