The Squid's Ear Magazine

Heroes Are Gang Leaders

LeAutoRoiOgraphy [BLACK VINYL]

Heroes Are Gang Leaders: LeAutoRoiOgraphy [BLACK VINYL] (577 Records)

Led by tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and poet Thomas Sayers Ellis, this 12-piece ensemble of pointed and ecstatic free jazz and spoken word are heard at the 2019 Sons D'Hiver Festival in Paris, 2019, their sound influenced by chamber elements and sharpened through insightful and demanding observations and the influence of Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones).

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product information:

UPC: 755491229330

Label: 577 Records
Catalog ID: LP-577R-5887
Squidco Product Code: 31620

Format: LP
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: USA
Packaging: LP
Recorded at Sons D'Hiver Festival, at ECAM Le Kremlin-Bicetre, in Paris, France, on Feburary 1st, 2019, by Olivier Gascoin.


Thomas Sayers Ellis-bandleader, poet

James Brandon Lewis-tenor saxophone

Luke Stewart-bass

Melanie Dyer-viola, vocals

Nettie Chickering-voice

Jenna Camille-piano, vocals

Randall Horton-poet

Devin Brahja Waldman-alto saxophone, synthesizer

Bonita Lee Penn-poet

Heru Shabaka-Ra-trumpet

Brandon Moses-guitar

Warren Trae Crudup III-drums

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) spoke the truth (and the truth under his tongue was sometimes a hammer, sometimes an anvil, sometimes a sickle, sometimes just a breath or a blast). Baraka had no tongue in cheek. Sometimes he drew his language (his thought) and in the barrel of his language (his thought), there was the cartridge of criticism, the cartridge of ranting, the cartridge of analysis, the cartridge of sedition, the cartridge of poetry, the cartridge of music.

Heroes Are Gang Leaders have the same outspokenness that goes in all directions, that makes absolutely everything a target and that liberates what it touches, it is a gathering of the tribes, an assembly and an assemblage of poets and musicians who use the same miraculous weapons, as Aime Cesaire, a close relative of Baraka / Jones, said.

In Paris, HAGL did this. They found the asylum, the outpost. They fired all their tongues. Like Charlie Parker's "Back Home Blues" or Jayne Cortez's "Taking the Blues Back Home". And your eyelids are heavy. A great heat invades you, a torpor takes possession of your body. All voices, all languages are viruses, the stories they tell are virulent. A musical instrument, like a poetic instrument, is used to pick up and scramble signals. Don't wake up. Not yet. All that's left is to try and swarm. It is done now. Now you will open your eyes. You breathe deeply. Count silently to three, and at three open your eyes. Come back to yourself. Do not resist. Resist. It is 2021. Everything remains to be done. You know what to do. One, two, three...Open your ears."-Alexandre Pierrepont, 2021

Also available on CD.

Artist Biographies

"Thomas Sayers Ellis was born October 5, 1963, in Washington, D.C. He earned an MFA from Brown University in 1995, and in 2005, Graywolf Press published his first complete poetry collection, The Maverick Room, for which he received the 2006 John C. Zacharis First Book Award. His most recent collection is Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems (Graywolf Press, 2010).

Ellis is also cofounder, with Sharan Strange, of the Dark Room Collective, whose mission was to form a community of emerging and established African American writers. Ellis and Strange founded the Collective in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1988, and the group included such celebrated poets as Major Jackson, Carl Phillips, Tracy K. Smith, Natasha Trethewey, and Kevin Young.

Ellis is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Fine Arts Work Center, the MacDowell Colony, the Ohio Arts Council, and Yaddo, as well as a Whiting Writers' Award. In 2015, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry. He has also served as a contributing editor to Callaloo."

-Poets.Org (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"James Brandon Lewis (b.1983 Buffalo NY) is a critically acclaimed saxophonist, composer, recording artist and educator . Lewis has received accolades from New York Times, Q Magazine and cultural tastemakers such as Ebony Magazine, who hailed him as one of the "7 Young Players to Watch" in todays scene. Lewis has shared stages with Ken Filiano, Darius Jones, and Jason Hwang, William Parker, Hamiet Bluiett , Hamid Drake , Ravi Coltrane , Jimmy Heath Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Joe Lovano Dave Douglas, Marc Ribot, Anthony Coleman and many others. James Brandon Lewis Lewis has been endorsed by Jazz legend Saxophonist Sonny Rollins " Promising young player with the potential to do great things having listened to the Elders". - Jazz Magazine (France). New York Times had this to say about Lewis " James Brandon Lewis , A Jazz Saxophonist in his 30's, Raw Toned But Measured, Doesn't sound steeped in current jazz academy values There's an Independence about him." James Brandon Lewis Leads numerous ensembles and is the Co- Founder of Poetry Music Ensemble Heroes Are Gang Leaders Lewis attended Howard University and holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts."

-James Brandon Lewis Website (

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"Luke has pursued a vast number of creative projects over the years. He plays bass and saxophone with DC-based indie rock band Laughing Man, who has performed at historic venues in the city including the Black Cat and St. Stephen's Church, opening for national acts such as The Evens, Wavves, Junkyard Band, and Wale. He has also played saxophone with his own experimental group Ziggurat, as well as various special collaborative performances throughout the East Coast.

As an electronic artist, he has been showcased in local exhibitions alongside legendary hip hop artist Grap Luva, and DC beatmaker Damu the Fudgemunk. He has also been a participant of Sonic Circuits' Festival of Experimental Music, performing on the same bill as cellist Okkyung Lee, as well as performing in other venues alongside instrument builder Layne Garrett and saxophonist Sam Hillmer (Diamond Terrifier). He is also a member of experimental electronic trio Mind Over Matter, Music Over Mind, which has participated in numerous festival performances, including Sonic Circuits' Festival and Noise Fest at George Mason University.

On the jazz side, Luke has performed at many of DC's historic venues including Bohemian Caverns, Twins Jazz, and HR-57. He had the honor of studying and performing with saxophonist Hamiett Bluiett. Recently he lead a 12-member ensemble in an hour-long tribute to John Coltrane on his birthday at the legendary Bohemian Caverns. He is also a member of Trio OOO, a collaborative ensemble featuring saxophonist Aaron Martin, and drummer Sam Lohman.

More recently he has helped establish, a DC-based jazz website and 501c3 non-profit organization, as its Avant Music Editor. Through the site, he has helped launch a live jazz performance series dubbed the "DC Jazz Loft", presenting some talented jazz artists in and around the DC area. He has also presented other jazz performances in his "Red Door Loft" series at the now-closed Goldleaf studios, as well as shows at CD Cellar in Arlington, VA, Bossa Bistro and Lounge, and DIY space the Paperhaus, where his performance curation was picked by Bob Boilen as one of the best shows of 2012.

He is also an Artist-In-Residence at the art space Union Arts and Manufacturing, in Washington, DC, where he regularly rehearses his numerous musical projects as well as hosts special performances and workshops.

During the day, he is the Production Coordinator for WPFW 89.3FM, as well as the host of THE VIBES edition of Overnight Jazz, weekly eclectic jazz program which showcases music from various sources in Luke's musical explorations. Through WPFW he has had the privilege of working with some seminal figures in music and social justice such as Chuck Brown, Yusef Lateef, Randy Weston, Muhal Richard Abrams, Juma Sultan, and Amiri Baraka. He has had the opportunity of producing many successful programs including a month-long commemoration of Black Music Month., featuring notably the reunion of trombonist Phil Ranelin and saxophonist Wendell Harrison from the Tribe organization of Detroit. He also co-produced a month-long tribute to pianist Horace Tapscott Los Angeles based community organization UGMAA (Union of God's Musicians and Artists Ascension). He also produced Washington, DC's first live radio appearance of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal on the program Jazz and Justice with Tom Porter."

-Luke Stewart Website (

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"Melanie Dyer performs and composes in creative, improvised and through-composed music spheres. She trained with William Lincer (Principal Violist, New York Philharmonic), Lee Yeingst (Principal Violist, Colorado Symphony Orchestra), John Jake Kella (NY Metropolitan Opera) and Naomi Fellows (Colorado Symphony Orchestra); and studied viola performance at the LaMont School of Music/University of Denver.

Melanie founded WeFreeStrings, an improvising string/rhythm collective rooted in improvised music in 2011. ​From 2004 - 2013, under her Bb Universe banner and in collaboration with the multi-generational, multi-ethnic Scientific Soul Sessions collective, Melanie's Harlem home became the scene of underground public performances by WeFreeStrings and other large and small music ensembles. Bb Universe hosted open rehearsals and performances, recordings, lectures, one-act plays and films including presentations by recognized indigenous activists Toaksin Ghosthorse, a performance of Robbie McCauley's Sally's Rape and a screening of John Douglas' documentary, Grenada: The Future Coming Towards Us. These monthly and semi-monthly events brought cultural luminaries, emerging artists, social and environmental activists, working and under-employed people together. Open dialogues, emphasizing individuals as agents of change, were central to Bb Universe and Scientific Soul Sessions.​Melanie currently performs with the Sun Ra Arkestra, Heroes Are Gang Leaders, Gwen Laster's New Muse 4tet, William Parker, Tomeka Reid Stringtet, Patricia Nicholson's Women w an Axe to Grind. She's played and/or recorded with Henry Grimes, Nona Hendryx, Joe Bonner, Reggie Workman, Howard Johnson, and a many other notable musicians in Europe, South Africa and across the U.S.

Recordings include WeFreeStrings Fulfillment (Indepstrings, 2018), David Haney's Birth of a City (2019), Come Sunday (T. Cumberbatch, 2015); Fred Ho & Quincy Saul Present the Music of Cal Massey: A Tribute (2011); Live at St Nick's Pub, Salim Washington & Donald Smith Ensemble, Cadence Records (2007); With Strings, Salim Washington & The Harlem Arts Ensemble, CIMP Records (2007); Harlem Homecoming, Salim Washington & The Harlem Arts Ensemble, UJam Records (2005), and others. WeFreeStrings has received project support from New Music USA, Chamber Music America, Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, and individual donors."

-Arts for Art (

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"Nettie Chickering is a NY Mezzo Soprano/ Belter Vocalist for Heroes Are Gang Leaders - American Book Award Winner (Oral Literature) Music Composition - 60 Hour Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Fair Shakes Romeo & Juliet International Gilbert & Sullivan Overall Champion - PATIENCE- Featured Dialects: Southern, African (Various), French NYC: Local Hire

Harmonizing, jazz/ scat singing, Boxing, Kick Boxing, Weight Lifting, Clowning, Dance Hip Hop, Guitar, Juggler, Singer, Vocal Range: Alto, Vocal Range: Mezzo Soprano, Vocal Style: Rapper, Voiceover, Whistler, African Accent, French Accent."

-Actor's Access (

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"Jenna Camille (born Jenna Henderson: November 21, 1990 in Atlanta, GA) Is a producer/ songwriter/vocalist who carefully blends electronic, jazz, blues, rock, R&B, and hip hop elements, and translates them into sultry and hypnotic songs about love, sex, depression, and social and political issues. The grandchild of a funk musician, Jenna took interest in music very early. In 1996, at the age of 6, she began training as a classical pianist, and soon began writing and composing her own music. In 2008, she graduated from the renowned Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC, and began studying in the Jazz Studies department of Michigan State University as a piano major. Inspired by the works of Janet Jackson, Prince, Aaliyah and many others, Jenna Camille's music steams with enigmatic eroticism, and cools with emotional vulnerability. In 2015, she performed at Lansing's Common Ground festival, which featured acts such as Snoop Dogg, DJ Quick and Wale, with East Lansing collective, The Blat! Pack. She has also performed in Jamestown, Ghana for the Chalo Wale festival and has been featured in several blogs. She continues to perform in the DC area. Her debut album, RED, was released in June, 2014."

-In Studio Live (

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"Randall Horton is the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, the Bea Gonzalez Poetry Award, the Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award for Creative Nonfiction and a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Literature. In addition, Randall has been interviewed on Fox News, NPR, CTNPR, CSPAN, the New Haven Register and countless journals, magazines and radio shows. He currently sits on the Advisory Board of Pen America's Pen Prison Writing Program. In 2018-2019 Randall was selected as Poet-in-Residence for the Civil Rights Corps in Washington DC, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to challenging systemic injustice in the American legal system. Randall has conducted workshops, lectured and toured numerous adult and juvenile detention centers across the nation to provide encouragement and hope for those entangled within the legal system. He is very interested in eradicating the language of incarceration that tends to re-criminalized those entangled in the legal system. Dr. Randall Horton is currently the only tenured Full Professor in the United States of America at a university or college with seven felony convictions. He is a member of the experimental performance group Heroes Are Gang Leaders which recently received the 2018 American Book Award in Oral Literature and their latest musical project, The Baraka Sessions, was named best vocal jazz album by NPR in 20129.. Randall's latest collection of poetry {#289-128} will be published by the University of Kentucky Press in Fall 2020. Dr. Horton is a Professor of English at the University of New Haven."

-Randall Horton Website (

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"Devin Brahja Waldman is a New York saxophonist, drummer, synthesizer player and composer who leads the group BRAHJA. Waldman has accompanied his aunt, poet Anne Waldman, since the age of ten. Waldman is a co-founding member of Radical Reversal, Diva of Deva Loka, and Notable Deaths. He has performed with Patti Smith, William Parker, Nadah El Shazly, Malcolm Mooney, Thurston Moore, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Charles Hayward, Luke Stewart and Yoshiko Chuma. Waldman is also a member of NYC's Heroes Are Gang Leaders (led by poet Thomas Sayers Ellis and saxophonist James Brandon Lewis), of Sam Shalabi's Land of Kush, and of the Norwegian hardcore group MoE. As a youngster, Waldman was taken under the wing of avant-garde giant Paul Bley. Along with Anne Waldman and cousin Ambrose Bye, Waldman is a co-producer for Fast Speaking Music -a NYC poetry and music label which has released recordings with Amiri Baraka, Meredith Monk, William Parker, Laurie Anderson, Eileen Myles, CAConrad, Fred Moten, Daniel Carter, Clark Coolidge, Thurston Moore, Joanne Kyger and many others."

-Devin Brahja Waldman Website (

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"Bonita Lee Penn is a Pittsburgh poet, editor, curator and author of the chapbook, Every Morning A Foot Is Looking For My Neck (Central Square Press, 2019.). Her work has appeared in JOINT. Literary Magazine, Hot Metal Bridge Journal, The Massachusetts Review, "The Skinny" Poetry Journal, Women Studies Quarterly, Voices from the Attic Anthology and her poem "When Lightning Rides Thunder Bareback" was the Solstice Editors' Pick for the 2018 summer issue of Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices. A writing workshop facilitator and graduate Interdisciplinary Instructor (Poetic Forms). Also, a curator of various poetry events, she is a member of the Pittsburgh Black Feminist Reading Group, sub (Verses) Social Collective, United Black Book Clubs of Pittsburgh and Managing Editor of the Soul Pitt Quarterly Magazine. She also performs with the New York based band Heroes Are Gang Leaders. Penn is also co-curator of "Common Threads: Faith, Activism, and the Art of Healing," a Pittsburgh-based art exhibit that examines the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic priorities of women of varying faith traditions."

-Hill District Arts Plan (

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"Heru Shabaka-Ra is a musician, writer, and physicist based in Philadelphia. Primarily a trumpet worker, he has been a contributor to the city's 'free jazz', improvised music, and afro-futurist scenes for almost a decade. He attributes his initiation into the 'Jazz' Tradition and Culture to legendary trumpeter Donald Byrd, whom he met and studied with while in high school. Currently, he is a student of Marshall Allen, legendary saxophonist and director of the Sun Ra Arkestra, and is one of the youngest members of this sixty-years old institution. Heru has performed and recorded with a number of powerful musicians in the Tradition, from bassists William Parker, Henry Grimes, and Jamaaladeen Tacuma, to saxophonists Odean Pope, Daniel Carter, and James Brandon Lewis. He has also worked with artists of other disciplines, from poet Anne Waldman, to DJ/producer King Britt, to dancer/choreographer Faustin Linyekula, and is a member of avant-garde poetry-jazz ensemble, Heroes Are Gang Leaders, led by poet Thomas Sayers Ellis. Heru is also the leader of his own units, Basquiat Blues, a 'free jazz' chamber ensemble, and Sirius JuJu, an ensemble wielding the philosophies and training of Sun Ra, the mathematics of Thelonious Monk and Eric Dolphy, and the martial essences of Wu Tang Clan and MF Doom, into a sound-vision that can be called "street bop", "free punk", and "liberation music". Having studied African/African American literature and literary criticism at Hampton University, his current research focuses on the energy dynamics of human culture, using 'language' and 'bebop culture' to build a model of the cosmos, its function, composition, and origin."

-Heru Shabaka-Ra Website (

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Brandon Moses is an improvising guitarist, a member of Heroes Are Gang Leaders, Paperhaus, and Laughing Man with Luke Stewart & Michael Andrew Harris.

-Squidco 9/20/2023

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Warren "Trae" Crudup III is a Washington, DC drummer and improviser, influenced by drummers Elvin Jones, Milford Graves, or Paul "Buggy" Edwards. He is known for his work with poet Thomas Sayers Ellis, saxophonists James Brandon Lewis, and Brian Settles.

-Squidco 9/20/2023

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Track Listing:


1. Anima (The Dutchman's Three Buttoned Suit / Poetry Iz Labor / Forensic Report) 7:19

2. LeAutoRoiOgraphy 12:05


1. The Shrimpy Grits 6:32

2. Sad Dictator (I Wanna Make Freedom) 13:10

Related Categories of Interest:

Vinyl Recordings
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Spoken Word
Large Ensembles
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