Dec 4, 2023

Poetry Electric: Jazzetry

Booker King and Paul Shapiro
Series Director: William Electric Black

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Jazz musicians Booker King and Paul Shapiro groove on bass and saxophone in between kicking their favorite poems, lyrics, and stories. Series Director William Electric Black jams along with the duo kicking some Langston Hughes poems — some Shakespeare and his favorite rock, pop. folk, and soul lyrics. Bass and sax jam with poetry creating Jazzetry in motion at this unique Poetry Electric event.

Paul Shapiro, saxophonist/composer is best known for his recordings on John Zorn’s Tzadik label. He was commissioned by the Museum of Jewish Heritage to compose a score for the 1925 silent film His People which has since been performed internationally.  He also scored the award winning faux documentary Watermelon Woman. Shapiro was a longtime member of the Microscopic Septet and a founding member of Brooklyn Funk Essentials. His song-length flute solo is featured on the Frankie Knuckles house music classic Whistle Song. In the 1980s he led his own band Foreign Legion, performing at the Mudd Club, CBGB, Danceteria and was featured on Emergency Records This is the Funk.  Shapiro has recorded with Lou Reed, David Byrne, Jay-Z, Rufus Wainwright, Queen Latifah, Michael Jackson and many others. He appears in the film Lou Reed’s Berlin.

Booker King, composer/bassist, is a native of New York City. Booker graduated from Five Towns College and studied under Bob Cunningham, Richard Davis and Homer Mensch. Booker has toured the world laying down powerful grooves and orchestral melodies. Among the artists he has performed and/or recorded with are Jane Siberry, Angelique Kidjo, Kelis, Grant Green Jr., Santana, Defunkt Big Band, Yoko Kanno, Corey Glover, Dean Brown, Mary Wilson, Stephanie Mills, Paul Shapiro, Paul Simon, Bill Sims and the American Roots Orchestra, Femi Kuti, Billy Cobham, Bobby Caldwell and Lila Downs.

Ian Ellis James, AKA William Electric Black, is a seven-time Emmy Award winning writer for his work on "Sesame Street" between 1992 and 2002. He also wrote for Nickelodeon's "Allegra’s Window" - Topstone Production’s “Puzzle Place” and was head writer for Lancit Media’s "Backyard Safari". His children’s television show - “Rap-U-Cation” and half hour family comedy, Black Vampires…RUCRAZY!, were recently optioned, 2021, by FarView Entertainment.  

In 2021, Ian wrote, directed, and produced 7 animated shorts - Food Thoughts for WTTW - ChicagoIn 2021, Ian was also a creative consultant on a children’s TV pilot, Dr. Greg’s SuperChefs Cookery - Fish On Ice. It was produced and shot in Vancouver, BC.  Presently, he is head writer and executive producer on FarView Entertainment’s Dragon Clouds. He also developed a pitch deck for Pinna.FM - Quentin & Alfie’s ABC Adventures. For HIP HOP PUBLIC HEALTH,  Electric wrote, directed, and produced animated and live action films featuring hip hop artists Doug E. Fresh, Chuck D, and Artie Green (Hip Hop Public Health). The short films promoted exercise and healthy living for young children re: obesity prevention.

Electric launched his Gunplays Series in 2013 at Theater For The New City with Welcome Home Sonny T- a play that spotlighted two significant forces driving the current epidemic of gun violence: the social impact of alienation and unemployment on young black males and the declining influence of black ministers as a force of stability in affected neighborhoods. He wrote four more plays about inner city gun violence, Gun Plays, now available via Applause Books at Amazon, Target, Barnes & Nobles and other online book venues. He is author of a series of Pre-K, early reader books re: gun violence awareness and prevention - A GUN IS NOT FUN (see for his plays and children's books on gun violence awareness).

Poetry Electric


The Poetry Electric fuses music, movement, sound, and dance with the spoken word and presents artists working in a wide range of styles including beatboxing, jazz and hip-hop theatre. This series has presented over 200 emerging poets from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Special Event