Spoken word transformed at the Rex Bar and Grill.

What's the difference between wordology and Word-Ology? The former is the study of words, while the latter is a combination of spoken word and live music happening second and fourth Thursdays at the Rex Bar and Grill (8 p.m., 827 Washington St. in Old Oakland). According to Oakland rapper and poet Azeem, who conceived of the twice-monthly happening, the event is all about "connecting and cultivating." Yet although it's an informal, relaxed setting, Azeem says it's not a typical open mic. While audience members are welcome to share their art, Azeem is trying to reach out to "real musicians and real wordologists," he says. "The people that come through, we want them to be heavyweights." Special guests will be invited every week, but rarely announced ahead of time. He compares the event to a restaurant where the menu is always changing, but whatever is on offer is always good.

The evening is also a regular tune-up session for Om Records artists Colossus, who serve as the house band. The oral tradition is balanced by the jazz tradition -- drummer Al Marshall, son of legendary skin-pounder Eddie Marshall -- although the music can veer widely between genres depending on the mood, the style, and the flow. "If I'm rapping over jazz, and it turns into hip-hop or dancehall, so be it," Azeem says, adding that his goal with the event is to replace the void in the nightlife zeitgeist left by the untimely demise of Oaklandish. "Where else are you gonna go on a Thursday in Oakland and see spoken word and live music?" he asks.

Meanwhile, Colossus' producer and bassist Charlie Tate feels Word-Ology could evolve into what he calls a "21st-century beatnik poetry thing." The beauty of the concept, he says, is that it allows for both musical and lyrical improvisation. "There are no boundaries ... it's very loose with the arrangements." He adds, "I'm just into the idea that we've got a very good unit. The players are fantastic."

Besides Tate, Azeem, and Marshall, Word-Ology's usual suspects include singer and MC Chela Simone, rapper Capitol A, and Felix the keyboardist. E-mail info@crowdedcastle.com


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