Aja Monets Debut Album Blends Jazz and Poetry From a Place of Love

Logo The New York TimesThe New York Times
2023-06-08 14:00:10  • 6 mins

On her debut album, When the Poems Do What They Do, the writer and community organizer offers up a fluid mix of jazz and poetry that evokes the spirit of 1990s spoken-word scenes.

A crowd that included musicians and actors filled the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue earlier this spring to hear the poet and community organizer Aja Monet speak about the subtleties of Black love, joy and uncertainty.

But for Monet, there was only one celebrity in the room: Bonnie Phillips, her former college adviser, who sat rapt in the front row.

I remember her suggesting what schools to go to and it wasnt Harvard, you know what I mean? Monet said in a recent video interview from her home in California. Recalling her high school years in New York, Monet said she asked a lot of questions in class but didnt have the best grades: I think I was way more just opinionated and outspoken.

She remains both on her debut album, When the Poems Do What They Do, a fluid mix of jazz and poetry out Friday that evokes the spirit of 1990s spoken-word scenes. Featuring a whos who of instrumentalists shes known over the years Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah on trumpet, Samora Pinderhughes on piano, Elena Pinderhughes on flute, Weedie Braimah on djembe and Marcus Gilmore on drums the LP is a nuanced exploration of Blackness.

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