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Thomas Sayers Ellis

Thomas Sayers Ellis

AKAMU representation: European exclusivity
For info and costs please contact Alberto Lofoco

• projects as a leader/co-leader •


Thomas Sayers Ellis - lyric essays / creative lectures with poems on various topics

Stereo Fight Tree Yo

Thomas Sayers Ellis - spoken word
Luke Stewart - double bass and electric bass
Andrew Latona - guitar

The Dead Lecturers
"Downtown Crown in the Key of Royalty" - A Tribute to Jean-Michel Basquiat

Thomas Sayers Ellis - spoken word
James Brandon Lewis - tenor sax
Melanie Dyer - viola
Alexis Marcelo - piano

Exploring the musicality-themes, references, esoteric nuances and creative process in the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Dead Lecturers explore what it means to be a young Black Artist making his way through downtown New York City in the 1980s. In language and musical compositions that are both reflexive and improvisational, the many techniques used by the famous painter resurface in wondrous soundscapes of consciousness and rhythmic brushstrokes of painted Jazz.

The Dead Lecturers combines poetic improvisation with thought-provoking musical exploration. In "Downtown Crown in the Key of Royalty" the ensemble explores the many registers of the oral tradition within the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat, particularly the sounds of surfaces of the paintings and the way language contributes to the act of composing and conducting a new cultural music influenced by Downtown NYC in the 1980s. What does it mean to create a new literacy, a royal of the streets, in an already established and thriving art form?

Founded in 2012 by James Brandon Lewis and Thomas Sayers Ellis, three years before their larger ensemble Heroes Are Gang Leaders, The Dead Lecturers is an improvisational exchange between units of sound and units of language with the goal of stimulating, within the listener, new ideas of action and non-passive living. Ellis and Lewis have a unique chemistry of agreeing and disagreeing with one another while delivering a potent, creative messages that extend the "Black Literary Oral Tradition".

Heroes Are Gang Leaders

Thomas Sayers Ellis - spoken word
James Brandon Lewis - tenor sax and composition
Randall Horton - spoken word
Bonita Lee Penn - spoken word
Nettie Chickering - vocals
Arin Maya - vocals
Melanie Dyer - vocals and viola
Devin Brahja Waldman - alto sax & synthesizer
Brandon Moses - electric guitar
Alexis Marcelo - piano
Luke Stewart - electric bass
Warren Crudup III - drums

The passing of Imamu Amiri Baraka in 2014 was a major loss for various facets of Black Radicalism. In politics, culture, and community, Baraka was a strong figure who was a shining example for so many to follow in his footsteps.
Formed from the love and respect of Baraka, a group of poets and musicians, led and founded by James Brandon Lewis & Thomas Sayers Ellis, have come together with a name lifted from one of Baraka's stories. The group embarked on a recording session last fall that blended poetry and music to "outishly" echoe and honor his legacy.
In the tradition of a signifying protest groove comes Heroes Are Gang Leaders. Their style has many mothers, many fathers, and nonecombining jazz, groove, black hollerin and extensions of paged and oral literary text by Gwendolyn Brooks, Bob Kaufman and Amiri Baraka.
Further info at Heroes Are Gang Leaders on Facebook

• video Heroes Are Gang Leaders •

Live at Hallwalls, Buffalo, NY - Milleniium Stage (October 9, 2021)
Live at JazzFest Berlin (31-10-2017)
Live at Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - Milleniium Stage (28-7-2017)
"The day we gave the globes back, a sing along!" + conversation: The freedom reform forms of performance at Issue's 22 Boerum Theater (Issue Project Room)
Channel of Heroes Are Gang Leaders on YouTube
same as above on Vimeo

• video The Dead Lecturers •

Live at Philharmonie Studio - Paris (15-4-2023)

• video Thomas Sayers Ellis •

Video of Thomas Sayers Ellis on YouTube

Thomas Sayers Ellis - James Brandon Lewis - Nothing Personal - Part 4 (12-12-2013)

• audio •

Album "Secret Heroes R U A" (feat. Thurston Moore)

• discography of Heroes Are Gang Leaders

2015 - The Avant-Age Garde I AMs of the Gal Luxury (dedicated to Bob Kaufman)
2016 - Highest Engines Near / Near Higher Engineers (dedicated to Gwendolyn Brooks)
2016 - Flukum (dedicated to Etheridge Knight)
2019 - The Amiri Baraka Sessions
2020 - Artificial Happiness Button
2022 - LeAutoRoiOgraphy

• interviews •

"Notes Toward a New Duty Now for the Future". An Interview with Thomas Sayers Ellis by Kelsea Habecker Smith (30-6-2018)

• texts & poetry •

All Elders be Eloquence, or One Way to Pay Dem You Owe - On Recording the track "Sad Dictator"
Amiri's Green Chim Chim-knees Growth Tribe
Poetry, Poems, Prose, Blog Posts and other texts
Vernacular Owl - for Amiri Baraka (July-August 2014)

• review •

Skin, Inc. - presentation of the book (2013)
Black History Month Florence: "The Dead Lecturers", tra poesia e musica al PARC di Firenze (in italian)


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