September 11, 2008


Jeff Lorber was born on November 4, 1952 in Philadelphia, Pa. Lorber started to play the piano when he was four years old and after playing in a number of R&B bands as a teen, went on to attend Berklee College of Music, where he developed his love for jazz.

His first group, The Jeff Lorber Fusion, released their self-titled debut album in 1977. Supported by a revolving cast of musicians including longtime drummer Dennis Bradford, Lorber recorded five studio albums under this moniker. These early releases showcased a funky sound influenced by other jazz fusion practitioners like Herbie Hancock, Weather Report and Return to Forever, the latter's Chick Corea appearing on several noteworthy Fusion cuts. Like his contemporaries, Lorber performed on multiple keyboard instruments including piano, Rhodes piano, and various analog synthesizers, often favoring the Minimoog and Sequential Circuits Prophet 5.

"Rain Dance," found on the 1979 album Water Sign, was sampled for the 1996 Lil' Kim single "Crush On You." The Jeff Lorber Fusion's 1980 LP Wizard Island introduced a young saxophonist named Kenny Gorelick, better known as Kenny G; this began a long association between Lorber and Gorelick that would continue after the Fusion disbanded in 1981. In 1982, Lorber recorded his first solo album It's A Fact, which explored Lorber's R&B roots with a smoother, more synth-heavy sound. The album featured a new backing band as well as contributions from former Fusion bandmate Kenny G and legendary percussionist Paulinho Da Costa. It's A Fact also contained several songs with vocalists, a stark contrast to the instrumental recordings of the Fusion.

1984 was a prolific year for Lorber, who followed up his solo debut with In the Heat of the Night and Lift Off. Later that same year, Lorber teamed up with influential R&B production duo David Frank and Mic Murphy, otherwise known as The System, to produce his most successful effort to date, Step By Step. The synth-driven title track rose to number 31 on the R&B charts.His subsequent albums continued to evolve in a smooth jazz direction. Two greatest hits compilations, The Definitive Collection and The Very Best of Jeff Lorber, were released in 2000 and 2002 respectively. To date, he has recorded a dozen solo albums, his most recent being 2005's Flipside which was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category.

Lorber has done extensive production and session work for other artists including Dave Koz, Eric Benet, Herb Alpert and Laura Branigan, as well as working on a track for the critically acclaimed 1997 PlayStation game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. In addition to his recording and performing, Lorber also hosts his own show on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Jeff Lorber is married to Mingquan Tungwarapotwitan. When Lorber was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, he received a successful kidney transplant from his wife.

Keith Van Washington, known to many as Versatyle, was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa. Keith is a multi-talented, multi-faceted young artist that brings to the stage a style that reflects his lyrical skill, his depth, and his spiritual upbringing.

Audiences in the Philadelphia area and beyond have experienced Versatyle’s soul-stirring performances. Versatyle was summoned by Ebony Magazine to write and perform an original piece for their 2003 Launch Party. He was later referred to in both Ebony and Jet magazines as “spoken word star Versatyle”. In 2006 he was nominated Poetic Ambassador of the year by Prysmatic Dreams and the New Word Order both of which have international spheres of influence. Also that year he was a finalist in the McDonald’s Gospelfest in New York City. Fusing the worlds of poetry and theatre Versatyle played a lead role in the play Murder What’s Next? which garnered an attendance of 20,000 in just one month. Versatyle has been featured on many compilation albums including: the 380 soundtrack produced by a MTV affiliate, Emancipation by international soul connoisseur DJ Come of Age, and the What Happened Hip Hop mix by Whispered Words where he was featured between Gill Scott Heron and KRS-one.

What is the relationship between jazz and poetry and what is the importance of each to our culture?

In my humble opinion Jazz is a genre that accentuates poetry like no other. It’s pure instrumentation, that can marry with the word. Once this union takes place the bond is phenomenal and can be felt. The importance of both, as with any art forms, is that of self expression. Human beings have an innate need to express and the arts allows humanity, to be humanity, tell the stories that need to be told without limitation or censorship…I do it with a pen, Coltrane did it with a sax.

Charitable work:

Salvation Army After School Program – Periodically Versatyle Spends time with children who can’t go straight home after school, helping them with homework, feeding them and providing supervision during leisure activities.

Murder What’s Next? – An annual production developed to address violence in the community. Murder What’s Next? is free to the public and centers around restoring “respect for life” to the community through spiritual uplifting. Versatyle plays one of the lead roles in the production.

September 07, 2008


Shenole Latimer admits that the reason he wanted to learn the saxophone was because it was shiny and looked complicated to play because of all of the keys that it had. Shenole's interest in jazz, though always present, found a new level of intensity when he met jazz bassist Todd Coolman during his undergraduate studies at Stony Brook Unversity on Long Island. Coolman's professionalism and breadth of knowledge about jazz fascinated Shenole and made him give consideration towards pursuing jazz for a living. This feeling was cemented, however, when a friend loaned Shenole a CD by Chick Corea called "Three Quartets", which featured Michael Brecker on the tenor saxophone. All it took was Michael Brecker's solo on the very first track of the CD to have Shenole make up his mind that jazz was what he wanted to do with his life. Shenole had never, up until that point, heard a saxophone played in such a manner.Shenole's CD "Front and Center" is a must for any serious jazz lover and collection>

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.
She has just released her second book of poetry, The Alchemy of Understanding, Poetic Soul Therapy, released December 2007, where she has included a collection of poems that reveal facets of living where understanding is, isn’t, was or wished for. Reflecting on her latest book, Celestial writes that her poetry is delicately crafted to leave readers breathless, not just because it sifts your breath away through shock or extracts it with sudden expressive impact, but because the potency of human emotion and speed with which these portraits of feeling have been painted have entered the deepest realm of your heart, mind and soul at a pace that pulls your breath inward in its wake, allowing you to experience the most cherished and often unspoken human sentiment.

Napalm Da Bomb, is a performance and teaching artist, as well as a mentor to aspiring, young poets. With his band, the Jazzpoetics, he has been a prominent presence on the music/poetry scene for many years. As an artist, Lamont demonstrates what he describes as "vibepoetics" - an eclectic mixing of multiple artistic genres to provide dramatic language arts education. As such, Napalm frequently collaborates with dancers, painters, rappers, storytellers and vocalists.

Napalm’s poetry has been published in many magazines, including Essence AND African Voices. He appears on various jazz CDs including: Awaiting the Spirit, The Po-Jazz Connection and African Rhythm Tongues. Lamont served as co-executive producer for the Philadelphia segment of HBO’s Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam. His latest book of poetry is Come Ride My Poems. In 2007, he released his CD "Pigments of My Imagination."

NeoSouljah was born Unnita [Yah ‘KNEE Tah] Chambers in Cleveland Ohio April of 1962 and began singing almost as soon as she could talk. Having been a vocalist for 39 of her 45 years on Earth, her talents have been lent to nearly every style of music you can name: Jazz, Neo-Soul, Funk, R&B, Rock, Country & Western, Rap, Hip Hop, Gospel, Madrigal, Classical and Hymnal, as both lead and background vocalist, and vocal arrangement. As a Singer, this Diversity has afforded her the ability to work with some well known Ministries and Artists including HBO Def Poets Abyss and Georgia Me . As a performer, NeoSouljah has appeared in underground productions of The Wiz, A Brand New Me, a movie production "Water My Flowers", and is a member of the Christian Comedy Association.

But it was her craft of Songwriting that eventually led her to the love affair she now holds with Poetry. This gift was discovered during a showcase in an International music conference hosted by Multi Award winning Gospel artist Babbie Mason.

As a poet, NeoSouljah, or “Neo” as she is nicknamed, has not only held her own within the Open Mic circuit winning several slams, she has been found on the mic at local churches as well, given room to ‘tell it like it should be’. Sharing her years of knowledge as a stage performer with her poetic peers, she regularly holds poetry sessions in her home. Called “Confessions” these nights are filled with food, laughter, poetry, writing contests, information, and performance tips as she coaches those alongside and coming behind her. These sessions have also been visited by poets within the National Slam Poetry and HBO Def Poetry community of artists.

Mario Coleman aka The Nxt LeveL hails from Chicago Ill. where he grew up to until age 15. From there he moved to Erie PA. This is where his journey into music began.

Nxt got his first exposure to Jazz, by hanging out with his uncles and listening to cats like Wes Montgomery, and the Jazz Crusaders. But it wasn’t until Grover Washington’s Mr. Magic dropped, that his interest peaked. From there, It was George Benson’s Breezing, by the time Ronnie Laws came out with the Friends and Strangers album, it was pretty much a wrap as far me moving between Jazz, and R&B for inspiration. I remember at one point Reading the back of albums covers like magazines just to see who was playing on them.

Poetry came from the ability to listen deeply to love songs and get lost in the flow and imagery they created. Not to mention how much the ladies love to hear a brother say something sweet to them. As a matter of fact the first poetry piece that was posted was to his X Girlfriend entitled In Silence. My Girl was so moved by the piece she posted in a poetry website, the response was overwhelming and from there it all began.