ATTENTION, ATTENTION!!!! With this current Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic in full bloom, and in the effort to keep you, our wonderful supporters, the SOJP staff and the artists involved safe from potential illness, the Spotlight On Jazz & Poetry Annual Event “Ascension” has been POSTPONED until further notice! Those of you that pre-purchased tickets will get a full refund. The SOJP committee will contact each of you promptly! If however you would like to hold on to your tickets for the rescheduled event they will be honored at that time. We apologize for any inconvenience! Stay safe and may God help us make it through this health challenge!



Composer-pianist-bandleader Omar Sosa was born in 1965 in Camagüey, Cuba’s largest inland city. At age eight, Omar began studying percussion and marimba at the music conservatory in Camagüey; in Havana, as a teenager, he took up piano at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Música, and completed his formal education at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. Among his influences, Omar cites traditional Afro-Cuban music, European classical composers (including Chopin, Bartok, and Satie), Monk, Coltrane, Parker, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Chucho Valdés, and the pioneering Cuban jazz group Irakere.
Reut Regev is a trombonist led, genre defying, progressive Jazz-soul band.
Sandra Turner-Barnes was born as Sandra J. Farmer, in Lawnside, New Jersey. She was educated in the City of Camden, New Jersey, and graduated with a degree in Business Management from Pierce College of Philadelphia. Sandra is primarily the published author of poetry, fiction and song lyrics, but also loves Jazz. Her first book of poetry, “Always A Lady”, originally self-published in 1986, was published for the third time in April of 1995, and to date, over 7,000 copies have been sold.
Diane Vincent aka Najwa Planet Goddess is a local poet/spoken word artist that has blessed the mic in cities from New York to Georgia and Dallas Texas. She is a staunch activist for culture, social change and the wrongly convicted. Diane Vincent is also a published author of three novels Ambiguity, G.O.E. The COINTELPRO Project and Seven Folds of a Sinner as well as a book of poetry entitled Sistah From Another Planet that are available on Amazon estores. Diane Vincent ultimately aspires to positively inspire other in consciousness, self-love and awareness through her writing that will decant into the next generation.
Jessica Lee is an American jazz & blues vocalist, songwriter (ASCAP) and recording artist, born in Manassas, VA. Lee's vocals reflect the influence of classic jazz, blues, rhythm & blues and gospel, but always with a heavy emphasis on the blues.
Aziza Miller knows New York. It's her home. The pulse and the energy of the city manifests in her fusion of funk, jazz, soul, Latin, and spoken word. New York also knows Aziza. Some of the city's most prestigious venues have welcomed her to standing room-only crowds.
Clarence Barbee began writing poetry in his teens, performing spoken word and slams in his twenties, and is currently a self-published author. He has performed all over the country from Seattle, WA. to Atlanta, GA. In his twenties he took on the moniker Nabraska in honor of his home state. More than ten years later, he would change that moniker to Poet 402; 402 being the area code of his hometown, Omaha. Nebraska was even a radio host for an online spoken word show, entitled Word On Tha Move.
“Alexander Gershman is not a jack of all trades; rather he is a master. He wears many hats and wears them all well: physician, surgeon, philanthropist, bandleader, songwriter and bassist to name a few. The 8-piece small group which is Sasha’s Bloc sounded nothing short of amazing as they dazzled the capacity level VIP crowd. Songs like ‘Feels Like Jazz’ and ‘Breakfast’ were guest favorites, along with the sweet and melodic duet ‘Black and Blue.’ Speaking of the songs, they are Gershman originals. And from my perspective, his writing is right up there with some of the classic songsmiths of the first part of the 20th century.” International Review of Music – by James DeFrances
Ms. Joseph is a prolific writer/Poetess who magnificently and eloquently captures her readers and audiences’ inner­ spirit through her creative works. She challenges thought processes and ideologies tackling untruths of many diversified contents; to bring forth realities and truth in many areas of her collective works of art. Ms. Joseph’s work of literary art is supple and poised. Yet, her creativity is ferocious and wisdoms are fierce.
Tonita Austin also known as “Toni Love” is a gifted poet and writer born and raised in West Philadelphia. Her love affair with words began in third grade and has been infused with moments inspired by the works of phenomenal artists.
Dee Dee McNeil is An Educator, Singer, Songwriter, Poet, Journalist, Producer and Playwright. She has performed in over two dozen countries worldwide, entertaining in a number of five-star hotels like The Westin, The Radisson, The Sheraton, The Four Seasons, The Hyatt, The Crowne Plaza and The Ritz Carlton. She sang for the King and Queen of Bangkok (by special request) at the Oriental Hotel in Thailand.
Otis O'Solomon is a member of the The Watts Prophets, The West Coast's answer to the Last Poets, the Watts Prophets didn't get quite the same recognition for their contributions to raising black consciousness and laying the foundations for rap. The group was formed at the Watts Writer's Workshop, an organization started by screenwriter Budd Schulberg designed to provide a creative outlet in the wake of the 1965 Watts riots. Father Amde Hamilton (an Ethiopian Orthodox priest, born Anthony Hamilton), Otis O'Solomon, and Richard Dedeaux met in the workshop circa 1967, and soon began performing together as Watts Prophets
Alphonse Mouzon, of African, French and Blackfoot descent, was born on November 21, 1948 in Charleston, South Carolina. He received his first musical training at Bonds-Wilson High School and moved to New York City upon graduation. He studied drama and music at the City College of New York as well as medicine at Manhattan Medical School. He continued receiving drum lessons from Bobby Thomas, the drummer for jazz pianist Billy Taylor. He played percussion in the Broadway show Promises, Promises, he then worked with pianist McCoy Tyner. He spent a year as a member of the jazz fusion band, Weather Report. After that Mouzon signed as a solo artist to the Blue Note label in 1972.
Vocalist, Songwriter, Poet, Recording Artist, World-traveling Entertainer. This talented performer grew up singing and touring with her musician parents “David & Roselyn,” a Blues/Folk duo based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her childhood took her from Berkeley, California to Detroit, Montreal, New Orleans, and back to Topanga Canyon, California. She earned a degree in Sociology with honors from the University of California Santa Cruz. Arlee's studies included jazz history and performance, musical theater and African & modern dance. Arlee's family travels include a tour of France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland in 1991.
Ms. Lundy is also a gifted actress active in theatre. “Acting,” as she told Dr. Billy Taylor in 2006, “helps me to get more comfortable and acquainted with the art of performance.” She performed the lead role as Billie Holiday in the Off-Off Broadway play “They Were All Gardenias” by Lawrence Holder, as well as the lead role in the Broadway show, Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Ladies,” and she made her television debut as the star of the CBS Pilot-Special “Shangri-La Plaza” in the role of Geneva, after which she relocated to Los Angeles, where she currently resides.
Donna Kirven, better known in the poetry world as “Celestial Dancer,” was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa., but currently lives in Northern California with her husband and two daughters. She has written poetry since age 10, and had her first poem published in her high school newspaper. Donna attended Temple University, and is currently a master’s candidate in organizational psychology. Her first book, When a Band-Aid Isn't Enough, and other poetic perspectives was released in February 2005, and offers a eclectic compilation of traditional and non-traditional poetry.
Elise Wood studied classical flute in Philadelphia. In the 1970s she moved from there to New York. There, she played in jazz groups, including with bassist Vishna Wood.They married, but were leading separate lives by the early 1980s. From 1983, Wood was frequently a member of groups led by pianist John Hicks. As a duo, they played mostly jazz, but also some classical music. They formed a business partnership – John Hicks-Elise Wood, Inc. – and toured the US, Europe and Japan in the 1980s. The couple married in 2001. Her first album as (co-)leader was Luminous, on which she played C and alto flute. A further album co-led with Hicks was Beautiful Friendship, recorded in 2000.
Courtney Bryan, is “a pianist and composer of panoramic interests” (New York Times). Her music is in conversation with various musical genres, including jazz and other types of experimental music, as well as traditional gospel, spirituals, and hymns. Bryan has academic degrees from Oberlin Conservatory (BM), Rutgers University (MM), and Columbia University (DMA) with advisor George Lewis, and completed postdoctoral studies in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University.
Keith Edward Elam (July 17, 1961 – April 19, 2010), better known by his stage name Guru (a backronym for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal), was an American rapper, producer and actor. He was a member of the legendary hip hop duo Gang Starr, along with DJ Premier. He was born in Roxbury, Boston. Claude M'Barali, professionally known as MC Solaar (French pronunciation: ​[ɛm si sɔˈlaʁ]) (born 5 March 1969), is a French rapper of Senegalese and Chadian origin. He is one of France's most famous and influential hip hop artists. Some even consider him as the best French rapper of all time.
Heikki Veli Uolevi Sarmanto (born 22 June 1939) is a Finnish jazz pianist and composer. Sarmanto was born in Helsinki and began to play jazz during the 1960s. He studied first at the Sibelius Academy and later at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 1970 he was chosen as 'Jazz Musician of the Year' in Finland and the following year he won top prizes at the Montreux Jazz Festival in both piano and combo categories.
Drumming is the ancient language of our ancestors. I made it my life long quest to master it. Over the past twenty years I have worked with so many wonderful people, some of them known and some of them not so known but all of them very special to me. That's why I choose not to drop names here. Instead I would like to share the love I have expierenced in having such a wonderful life as a musician.
Hotep Idris Galeta (7 June 1941 – 3 November 2010) was a South African jazz pianist and educator. His legal name at birth was Cecil Galeta, but according to local custom he was more commonly known as a child and young man as Cecil Barnard, his father's first name being used instead of a last name. In the United States, he played and recorded with Herb Alpert, John Handy, Bobby Hutcherson, Elvin Jones, Hugh Masekela, Jackie McLean, Mario Pavone, Joshua Redman, and Archie Shepp. Outside jazz he performed and recorded with David Crosby and the Byrds. In 1985, Jackie McLean invited him to teach at The Hartt School of the University of Hartford, where he taught until his return to South Africa in 1991, following the collapse of apartheid.
Sample was born in Houston, Texas, on February 1, 1939. Sample began to play the piano at age 5. He was a student of the organist and pianist Curtis Mayo. In high school in the 1950s, Sample teamed up with friends saxophonist Wilton Felder and drummer "Stix" Hooper to form a group called the Swingsters. While studying piano at Texas Southern University, Sample met and added trombonist Wayne Henderson and several other players to the Swingsters, which became the Modern Jazz Sextet and then the Jazz Crusaders, in emulation of one of the leading progressive jazz bands of the day, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.
One of the many straight-ahead jazz vocalists who emerged in the '90s, Karen Francis got a lucky break when she met veteran hard bop/post-bop pianist Stanley Cowell during the summer of 1994. The two of them met at a party in the Washington, DC suburb of Silver Springs, MD, where they were introduced by one of Cowell's students. After hearing Francis sing, Cowell (who was 53 at the time) felt that she had a great deal of potential -- and he was surprised to learn that she had only been singing jazz for two years.
Kersten Stevens' tenacious violin performance is transcendent, expressively balanced in spirit, artistry and beauty. An uniquely dedicated artist, her fusion of jazz and gospel explores the powerful forces between art and anointing. yrsa is the author of “Keeping the Store,” an increasingly popular book of poetry, that is inspiring, truthful, funny, and real. As one reader put it, “it has teeth!” She published this first book through her own company Fawn Publishing.
Marie Grady, affectionately known in the entertainment world as LyriQ, is an author, songwriter/vocalist, spoken word performer, and self-taught painter. With 16 years of performing experience under her belt, Marie still considers herself a babe as it relates to her still budding gifts and she strives daily to reinvent herself and to take all crafts adopted to the next level.
Kersten Stevens' tenacious violin performance is transcendent, expressively balanced in spirit, artistry and beauty. An uniquely dedicated artist, her fusion of jazz and gospel explores the powerful forces between art and anointing. yrsa is the author of “Keeping the Store,” an increasingly popular book of poetry, that is inspiring, truthful, funny, and real. As one reader put it, “it has teeth!” She published this first book through her own company Fawn Publishing.
Monika Herzig is a lot of things. A jazz pianist, whose second album for Owl Studios, a DVD and CD combo called Come with Me, was released this April. A pedagogue, teaching music industry courses for undergrads at IU-Bloomington and a jazz history class for continuing studies students at IUPUI. A church organist, employed by Ellettsville First United Methodist for 16 years. Norbert Krapf was born in 1943 in Jasper, Indiana, a German community. He graduated from Jasper High School and received a B.A. in English from St. Joseph's College, Rensselaer, IN. He received his M.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame and also his Ph.D. in English and American Literature, with a concentration in American Poetry.
"Unlike most things, life has no do-overs. It's not going to be performed perfect, but it should at least be enjoyed in the process. Share yourself." Discovered and named by Dove/Stellar award winning artist Babbie Mason, NeoSouljah's poetry combined with her 5 octave range and vocal stylings that excel in R&B, Jazz, Gospel and of course, Neo Soul have afforded her appearances on stages across the country from Jazz Festivals to church pulpits. She has also been found lending her vocals on open mic nights along with HBO Def Poets Abyss, Georgia Me and Malik Salaam to name a few. Most recently, Neo hosted the first ever Tri-C Jazz fest Jam and Poetry session, lending her vocals to an impromptu jazz session accompanied by Hubb's Groove ft.
Pope was raised in Philadelphia, where he learned from Ray Bryant while young. Early in his career, at Philadelphia's Uptown Theater, Pope played behind a number of noted rhythm and blues artists including James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. He played briefly in the 1960s with Jimmy McGriff, and late in the 1960s he began working with Max Roach, including on tours of Europe in 1967-68. He was a member of Philadelphia group Catalyst in the early and mid-1970s, and assembled the Saxophone Choir, which consists of nine saxophones and a rhythm section (piano, bass and drums), in 1977. He became a regular member of Roach's quartet in 1979 and recorded extensively with him, in addition to numerous releases as a leader.
ONI LASANA was born and nurtured with a love of music, poetry, storytelling and people in the Strawberry Mansion section of North Philadelphia. Her mother Maria, a businesswoman in the fashion industry also sang 1st soprano with the Negro Opera Ensemble of Philadelphia. Her father a master mason by trade, was a Renaissance man, charming raconteur and people person. Oni culturally and creatively grew up in a beautiful tree lined neighborhood with lots of playmates. She kept her younger friends safe and out of trouble in what her mother called her "basement & backyard school." Oni loved teaching and directing talent shows, and making up street games with friends on 24th & Huntingdon Street.
Pamela Luss is a contemporary jazz vocalist blessed with a beautiful voice, remarkable timing, and sumptuous intonation. She sings classic standards, swinging jazz, and wonderful tunes from some of the unexplored corners of the Great American Songbook in a fresh and original way. She covers a wide range of stylistic ground, from traditional ballads to pop hits to Latin songs and the blues, in interpretations that can be either catchy and finger snapping or slow and tender –and everything in between.
Houston Person (born November 10, 1934) is an American jazz tenor saxophonist and record producer. Although he has performed in the hard bop and swing genres, he is most experienced in and best known for his work in soul jazz. He received the Eubie Blake Jazz Award in 1982. Person grew up in Florence, South Carolina, and first played piano before switching to tenor saxophone. He studied at South Carolina State College where he was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 1999. Pamela Luss is a contemporary jazz vocalist blessed with a beautiful voice, remarkable timing, and sumptuous intonation. She sings classic standards, swinging jazz, and wonderful tunes from some of the unexplored corners of the Great American Songbook in a fresh and original way.
When the anesthesia wore off, Pat Martino looked up hazily at his parents and his doctors. and tried to piece together any memory of his life. One of the greatest guitarists in jazz, Martino had suffered a severe brain aneurysm and underwent surgery after being told that his condition could be terminal. After his operations he could remember almost nothing. He barely recognized his parents. and had no memory of his guitar or his career. He remembers feeling as if he had been "dropped cold, empty, neutral, cleansed, ... naked."
You have got to know that you have just tripped over a Juicy diamond waiting to be squeezed from the world wide Web. Rob Juice is the best example of an evolutionary jazz Artist that introduces a avant-garde marriage between Nu-soul and Nu*Jazz sprinkled with some Funk and marinated with some Smooth Jazz for taste. Juice says he’s flirtatiously true to the Miles Davis tradition of trumpet players that custom create their own genres rather than fit into one. He also says he writes Music in Color, and Blurs the line between ART and JAZZ and takes that even further"
Roy Edward Ayers, Jr. was born in Los Angeles, CA on September, 10 1940. He comes by his affinity with music naturally, as his mother Ruby Ayers was a schoolteacher and local piano instructor and his father Roy Sr. Jean Claude Toran in 1976 signed with Philadelpha International Records..The album was The Bicentenial Poet.... 1979 did world tour with Isaac Hayes 1980's..Appeared National Black arts in Atlanta, Ga. Created Happy Nappy the Clown. Happy Nappy appeared at The White House for visistors. As a poet I have appeared at many schools...Howard Uiversity, Morehouse,UCLA,winston-selem state and many more. Currently writing for Roy Ayers
Sandra Turner-Barnes was born as Sandra J. Farmer, in Lawnside, New Jersey. She was educated in the City of Camden, New Jersey, and graduated with a degree in Business Management from Pierce College of Philadelphia. Sandra is primarily the published author of poetry, fiction and song lyrics, but also loves Jazz. Her first book of poetry, “Always A Lady”, originally self-published in 1986, was published for the third time in April of 1995, and to date, over 7,000 copies have been sold.
Sonia Sanchez (born Wilsonia Benita Driver; September 9, 1934) is an American poet, writer, and professor. She was a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement and has authored over a dozen books of poetry, as well as short stories, critical essays, plays, and children’s books. In the 1960s, Sanchez released poems in periodicals targeted towards African American audiences, and published her debut collection, Homecoming, in 1969. In 1993, she received Pew Fellowship in the Arts, and in 2001 was awarded the Robert Frost Medal for her contributions to the canon of American poetry. She has been influential to other African-American poets, including Krista Franklin.
A native of Baltimore, Susan grew up in a home filled with the sounds of Bach, Beethoven, Gilbert & Sullivan, Broadway Musicals and the soulful singers Bessie, Billie and Ella. Graduating from Hollins University with a degree in Drama & Dance, Susan went on to New York City – studying acting with Uta Hagen, appearing in Off-Broadway plays and musicals, TV commercials and performing with the improvisational theater company. Throughout Susan’s career as an actor and improviser, her real passion was always for the Music, studying with the great jazz singers, Sue Raney and Sheila Jordan, and performing regularly as a vocalist.
Roney was born in Philadelphia and attended Howard University and Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, after graduating from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts of the D. C. Public Schools, where he studied trumpet with Langston Fitzgerald of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Found to have perfect pitch at the age of four, Wallace began his musical and trumpet studies at Philadelphia's Settlement School of Music. He studied with trumpeter Sigmund Hering of the Philadelphia Orchestra for three years. Hering regularly presented Wallace at recitals at the Settlement School, and with the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble, during his studies in Philadelphia.
YURI KAGEYAMA is a poet, fiction writer, essayist, journalist, filmmaker and songwriter of bilingual and bicultural (Japanese and American) upbringing. ISAKU KAGEYAMA (born December 12, 1981 in San Francisco, United States) is an American musician, composer, producer, and educator, specialized in taiko drums. He is a member of Tokyo-based taiko ensemble called Amanojaku. He is famous for his fusion of traditional Japanese music with jazz, rock and club music, whereby he has collaborated with many jazz artists such as Eric Gravatt, Terumasa Hino, Toshinori Kondo, and Kazutoki Umezu, as well as a wide range of ethnic musicians.
Nikki Giovanni is one of America’s foremost poets. Over the course of a long career, Giovanni has published numerous collections of poetry—from her first self-published volume Black Feeling Black Talk (1968) to New York Times best-seller Bicycles: Love Poems (2009)—several works of nonfiction and children’s literature, and multiple recordings, including the Emmy-award nominated The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection (2004). Her most recent publications include Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid (2013) and, as editor, The 100 Best African American Poems (2010). A frequent lecturer and reader, Giovanni has taught at Rutgers University, Ohio State University, and Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebecca Butterfly Vaughns. Rebecca Butterfly Vaughns, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far. I’ve been writing poetry since the age of ten. A trip to pay my car insurance in May of 1997 would set the stage for my 21 years of performing poetry for every kind of event you could ever imagine. My agent at the time told me to wait a minute while she was on the phone. As I took a seat, I noticed a blue sheet of paper on her desk with the word poetry on it. I tapped it in a manner of interest to see it, and so she pushed it toward me. It was for an open mic night Body, Mind and Soul that had just started the week before.
A Conversation with Rebecca “Butterfly” Vaughns
Hulon E. Crayton (c. 1956 – February 14, 2015) was a smooth jazz saxophonist hailing from Panama City, Florida, who started his jazz career as a member of noted jazz group On Call. Hulon released his debut release, First Impressions, via Premier Musique Group in 2010. First Impressions was produced by noted smooth jazz artist Jeff Kashiwa and included eight original songs co-written by Kashiwa and Hulon, and also features a cover of the song "The Cisco Kid" by the band, War. The song "Sax on the Beach," served as the album's first single and reached No. 16 on the Top 50 Indie Chart and was featured on the noted jazz website, in addition to receiving national and international airplay at terrestrial and online radio.
Jazz guitarist Roni Ben-Hur has earned a sterling reputation as a musician and educator, renowned for his golden tone, improvisational brilliance, compositional lyricism and ability to charm peers, students and listeners alike. Eminent jazz critic Gary Giddins wrote in the Village Voice: “A limber and inventive guitarist, Ben-Hur keeps the modernist flame alive and pure, with a low flame burning in every note… [He’s] a guitarist who knows the changes and his own mind.
Laini Mataka produced Black Ivory, her first record of poetry set to music, in 1971. That recording was followed by Me and a Friend. Her publications include Black Rhythms for Fancy Dancers, Never as Strangers, Restoring the Queen, and Being a Strong Black Woman Can Getchu Killed. Her work has been include in a number of anthologies including Sisterfire, 360 Degrees, In Search of Color Everywhere and Day of Absence
It has been written that Victor Fields belongs to a rare species of silky soul jazz singers. Based in Oakland, CA., Victor's rich gauzy tenor and his ability to move seamlessly between the blues, jazz, R&B, and Pop prompted the Los Angeles Times to describe him as "a stylistically accomplished singer" and Chicago Jazz Magazine to recognize him as "one of the most dynamic and versatile jazz singers today!". As an independent artist, Victor has recorded five critically acclaimed CDs on his own label, Regina Records. A. Scott Galloway wrote, “It’s like David slaying Goliath. Victor Fields is on his own independent label and he’s making his own independent music without the money machine behind him”.
As an upright bassist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist, Jason Fraticelli is seen and heard often at the center of many musical scenes in the Philadelphia/New York communities. For the past 20 years he has been acting as sideman for many different artists such as Matisyahu, Melody Gardot, and Cyro Baptista, while at the same time always fascilitating his own groups such as the Fresh Cut Orchestra, The FCC, and The Jason Fraticelli Band. At the age of 13 he played one of his first concerts, on drums, opening for reggae artist Jimmy Cliff in Philadelphia with his dad and his uncle in a group called Elysium. It was that experience that gave Jason the inspiration for music performance that was to shape a long and ongoing career.
Growing up a child on the Mississippi in 1975 means many things for music pioneer and poet Orustus. His most prominent memories are of a father described now as intelligent but restless and angry then. A man of fierce determination who seemed to be in a constant struggle with a woman, his mother. Althea Womack dedicated her life as a caretaker, nurturing underprivileged people who were challenged and less fortunate, while being a strong, single mother of 4 children in the city of New Orleans. His father's behavior cultivated what seemed to be the norm in his young life - a life frequented with struggles and confusion.
A Conversation with Clayton “Big Trigger” Corley
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