Poet E.J. Antonio envisioned her debut CD, Rituals in the marrow: Recipe for a jam session, as an “in-the-moment jam session.” This recording is a unique blend of spoken words that dance with the sonic diversity of instruments as they wind their way through the genres of jazz, blues, gospel, r&b, and Afro-Latin rhythms. “I often go to live jazz performances,” spoke Antonio, “and write down the images that come to me from listening to the music and watching the musicians’ physical reactions to the music. These genres of music and this gift of words have influenced me my entire life. My bones have absorbed these sounds, move to these sounds, and rest in these sounds.” Blues, jazz, r&b and pop music were staples of Antonio’s life growing up in Spanish Harlem. So was her fascination for words and gospel influences that were a direct result of watching her grandmother Lucille, a Pastor of Gospel Temple Church of Christ, work on and preach her sermons.
The musicians on this project were chosen because of their creative improvisational skills and extraordinary ability to “listen” to each other. Antonio’s concept was to keep an element of surprise and risk, so all the tracks are live collaborations with no rehearsals. On the first track, renowned jazz artist Christian McBride along with Christopher Dean Sullivan (acoustic bass), Saco Yasuma (bamboo sax), and Joe Giardullo (reeds) resonate together to form the tension egg of sound necessary to make the birthing of the poem “foreign monkey” possible. Trumpet player Eddie Allen becomes the foil in “bluesman/truth be told,” while Tyehimba Jess on harmonica is the “in-your-face” gospel sound bolstering the voice in “Pullman porter.” “Sound rhythium” musician Michael T.A. Thompson (drums) and Joe Giardullo (flute) are complimented by Sullivan who uses his acoustic bass as a percussion instrument bringing home the Afro-Latin sound in the danceable “ballad mambo.” Track number eight was inspired by the music of June Kuramoto and the sounds of the koto instrument. The bamboo sax of Saco Yasuma with the French horn treatment by Mark Taylor add the perfect touch of serenity and introspective to “koto suite.” Every track, with words that drip like honey from Antonio’s mouth, is clearly live improvisation at its best.
E.J. Antonio is a 2009 fellow in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts and a recipient of fellowships from the Hurston/Wright Foundation and the Cave Canem Foundation. She has appeared as a featured reader at several venues in the NY tri-state area, such as Cornelia Street Café, the Bronx Council on the Arts First Wednesday reading series, the Calypso Muse Reading Series, the Hudson Valley Writers Center, the Harvard Club, WBAI’s broadcast Perspectives, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, the Bahai Center, Hunter Mountain Arts Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, the Port Chester Art Fest 2008, 2009 and 2010, the Home Base Project, the York Arts Center, the Latimer House Museum, and the Howl Festival.
Her work appears online at www.thedrunkenboat.com, poetz.com, and roguescholars.com, and has been published in various Journals and magazines; including, African Voices Literary Magazine, Amistad Literary Journal, Terra Incognita, Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire, Mobius: The Poetry Magazine, The Mom Egg Literary Journal, One Word/Many Voices: A Bi-Lingual Poetry Anthology, and Torch. Her work is forthcoming in The Encyclopedia Project. The Premier Poets Chapbook Series published her first chapbook, Every Child Knows, in the Fall of 2007, and she is one of the featured poets on the CD, Beauty Keeps Laying It’s Sharp Knife Against Me: Brant Lyon and Friends.
“I use my work to bring attention to the commonalities we share as human beings, and to shed a light on the idea that there needs to be a place for a different kind of spoken word; that the collaboration of music and poetry is still a viable art form. Some call this jazzoetry, others call it pojazz, and others call it poemusic or spoken word. Whatever the title, it is clearly not just jazz or poetry, but something that resonates in the heart, something that causes a person to slow down and listen.”