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Follow the path to jazz, spoken word

Published: 
Sunday, July 14, 2013
R&B performer John “John John” Francis performing at Word and Jazz. Photo courtesy lime.tt

Tao, the Chinese concept representing “the path” or “the way,” is taking on a whole new meaning on Saturday nights at the local sushi bar that bears the philosophy’s name. TAO Sushi is the venue; Word and Jazz is the weekly event. Or maybe it’s more like a movement. It all came about organically. John Francis, an R&B performer known in the music fraternity by his stage moniker, John John, thought that TAO would be a great place to launch his debut album. The owners agreed (the launch is actually carded for July 27) and immediately saw the potential: could this be something that happened every week? Album launches…maybe not. But performances? Definitely.

 

 

There were certainly enough talented local musicians and performers looking for a supportive place to hone their craft, thought Francis. He was just one of them—and as an artist signed with the Highway Records label, he had access to many more. John is responsible for booking artistes and hosting the shows; he even makes a point of performing at least one song with each guest musician. Highway Records has taken on the role of managing and marketing the event series, as well as archiving the performances on video. The Web site lime.tt helps with the media promotion and handling the door—and they apparently have their hands full.

 

“There’s not too many venues for live local music,” explains Francis. “At least not for jazz and spoken word.” He says that TAO Sushi’s ambience suits the mood of the music and the depth of the spoken word performances. It also provides an alternative method of getting original local music heard. “We’re creating our own fan base,” says Francis. “Each time, more people come out to support us. That’s how underground artistes grow.” Word and Jazz started the last week of May in a small section of the restaurant. The series was originally planned to run until August 31, but it has become so popular that not only has it moved to a bigger space within the sushi bar, it will likely have a longer run as well—at least until Carnival season begins, says Francis.

 

 
The series has had some impressive names to its credit. Kern Sumerville, the multi-talented panman, drummer and trumpet player, performed a stirring Jazz fusion set a couple of weeks ago. Last night, Nigel Rojas and Friends were scheduled to bring down the house with a semi-acoustic set that blended rock, R&B and alternative genres. Next week, Janique Dennis, a poet who melds song and the spoken word, will perform for the crowd. Who is this crowd, exactly? “It’s a sit-down and relax, more mature audience,” says Francis. “Anyone from 25 to 70 who craves something different. The performances are thought-provoking; paired with the sushi and the wine, it’s just a calmer vibe.” For $100, you can enjoy the cool jazz of panman Mikhail Salcedo or the searing spoken word commentary of Kern Solomon or Freetown Collective, the group of folksy lyricists and musicians who put a powerful, modern spin on T&T’s oral tradition.  

 

Check out the event’s Facebook page (facebook.com/events/189838391167919/) for regular updates.

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