Heroes Are Gang Leaders is an avant-garde/experimental jazz band comprised of eight dynamic interdisciplinary artists looking to redefine the concept of music/sound and its relationship to instrument and literary text.

There are several narratives running through the vein of HAGL, it is comprised of 10 musicians, poets and singers, each having made significant contributions in their respective fields.



Poet, Photographer, Professor, Thomas Sayers Ellis is the bandleader and a co-founding member of HAGL. He is the author of “The Maverick Room and Skin, Inc. Identity Repair Poems” (Graywolf Press) and his work have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, The Nation, Tin House as well as numerous anthologies. He has taught at numerous Universities and is the recipient of a Mrs. Giles Whiting Writers Award and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Poetry in 2015.

Saxophonist and composer James Brandon Lewis have received accolades from cultural tastemakers such as Ebony Magazine, who hailed him as one of the “7 Young Players to Watch” in 2013. Lewis has shared stages with icons such as Benny Golson, Geri Allen, and Dorinda Clark Cole, as well as William Parker, Hamiet Bluiett, Ravi Coltrane, Jimmy Heath, Jamaaladeen Tacuma and many others. Lewis attended Howard University and holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts.

Crystal Good is a writer poet who uses poetry and performance as a lens into the multiverse and vehicle to explore the landscapes of West Virginia. She is a member of the Affrilachian Poets, an Irene McKinney Scholar and performs with Heroes Are Gang Leaders. Crystal’s debut collection of poetry, “Valley Girl” explores themes in quantum physics, Appalachian culture, and the destructive coal mining practice known as mountaintop removal.  Website: http://crystalgood.net/

Randall Horton is the recipient of the Bea Gonzalez Poetry Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature (Poetry), and most recently GLCA New Writers Award for Creative Nonfiction for “Hook: A Memoir” (2015). Horton is also a senior editor at Willow Books, an independent literary press he helped found in 2006. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he now resides in New York City.

No Land is a poet, photographer, and visual artist, born & living in New York City. Her photographic work has appeared in the Village Voice, Brooklyn Rail, New York Times, Independent newspaper, on PBS’s Moyers & Company and elsewhere. Collaborators, photographically or poetically, have included artists Pat Steir, Anne Waldman, Daniel Carter, and Steve Cannon of A Gathering of the Tribes Gallery. In New York City, she assistant teaches at the International Center of Photography. She is currently making experimental poem-cinema and is at work on an album of sonic poetry.

Janice A. Lowe, composer-arranger, and poet has created original music for the “My Time” pilot on OWN, and has produced tracks for Jonestwins TV. She has composed for and music directed plays including “Liza Jessie Peterson’s Chiron’s Homgurl Healer Howls”, “Door of No Return” by Nehassaiu deGannes and “12th and Clairmont” by Jenni Lamb. She composed the musicals “Lil Budda”, text by Stephanie L. Jones, presented at The O’Neill and the NAMT Festival of New Musicals; “Sit-In at the Five & Dime”, words by Marjorie Duffield and “Somewhere in Texas”, book and lyrics by Charles Drew. She has performed with the experimental bands w/o a net, Digital Diaspora. Janice tours as a pianist-vocalist, performing her poetry collection “Leaving CLE”, as a song cycle with groove.  She is a co-founder of absolute theater co. and the Dark Room Collective.

Margaret Marie Morris, the woman in red whose initials spell the natural expression of enjoyment, is a Chicago/NYC artist in an ever evolving exploration of profound pleasure as a foundational life practice. A consummate improviser, her recent projects and collaborations include a body of written work connected to her video performance explorations of pleasure under the moniker Moonbones Evolutionary, the honor of being invited to do a choreographic residency at Ragdale as a former Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist, an evolving pilates and yoga teaching practice in which she helps clients deepen their capacity for pleasure through the body. 

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. 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. He has worked with artists of other disciplines, from poet Anne Waldman to DJ/producer King Britt, to dancer/choreographer Faustin Linyekula. Heru is 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.

Devin Brahja Waldman is a New York saxophonist, drummer, synthesizer player, and composer. He has performed with Patti Smith, Malcolm Mooney, Thurston Moore, Lydia Lunch, Daniel Carter and Sam Shalabi.   He has accompanied his aunt, the poet Anne Waldman, since the age of ten. He plays in Heroes Are Gang Leaders (founded by poet Thomas Sayers Ellis and saxophonist James Brandon Lewis) and leads an NYC/Montreal-based band called B R A H J A.   As a young’un he was mentored by pianist Paul Bley. With Anne Waldman and his cousin Ambrose Bye, Waldman co-directs Fast Speaking Music—a music and poetry label which has released the works of Amiri Baraka, Meredith Monk, CA Conrad, Clark Coolidge, Eileen Myles and many others.

Multi-instrumentalist Luke Stewart is a prominent figure in Washington DC’s music community and is a key concert organizer. His regular ensembles include Trio OOO. He is also a member of experimental electronic group MOM^2 (Mind Over Matter, Music Over Mind), with whom he was invited to perform and lecture at the University of South Carolina, as well as being invited to perform at the Sonic Circuits Festival of Experimental Music. He also is a solo performer, having presented original material and improvisations throughout the East Coast.

Warren G. Crudup III “Trae” comes from a family of musicians. Since the age of 3, he has had a passion for the drums. He has played, recorded and performed with many artists such as Edward “Butch” Warren, Grammy nominee Cheick Hamala Diabate, Tarus Mateen, David Ornette Cherry and much more. Warren was a member of the UDC Big Band at the University of the District of Columbia where he had the opportunity to share the bandstand with some phenomenal players such as Bruce Williams, Allyn Johnson, and much more.

Ambrose Bye is a musician, engineer, and producer living in New York City. He is a co-founder of Fast Speaking Music with Anne Waldman. Working primarily with poets and experimental musicians it makes sense that he would end up as HAGL’s engine(h)er(o).  Since 2009 he has been involved with the Summer Writing Program at Naropa University, helping lead collaborative poetry/music workshops in the recording studio.  This is where he joined forces with HAGL in 2015 to record The Avant-Age Garde I Ams of the Gal Luxury which also features Thurston Moore and Lydia Lunch. He continued on to engineer the next three HAGL Albums out of his studio in NYC. A frequent collaborator and producer, he has been involved with many other recordings and projects that include Amiri Baraka, Meredith Monk, Cecilia Vicuna, Eileen Myles, CAConrad, Daniel Carter, Ha-Yang Kim, Clark Coolidge, Will Alexander, Marty Ehrlich, and many others. He has help lead workshops and performed at Masnaa and the Ecole de la Literature in Casablanca, The New England College MFA program, and Casa Del Lago in Mexico City. Other performances include:  Vicenza Jazz Festival, Le Maison de Poesie in Paris, the festival Maelstrom in Brussels, Tennessee Tech, Old Dominion, Pensacola State College, The New School, Butler University, the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, and with Pathway to Paris both at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC and at Montreal POP 2015.  In 2017 as part of Casa Del Lago he engineered an eight speaker surround-sound installation in Chapultepec Park with Thurston Moore, Eva Prinz, and the Ecstatic Peace Library.

2 thoughts on “HEROES

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s