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The Funky Wordsmyths

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The Funky Wordsmyths, those troubadours of trouble and triumph, have changed their lineup. Gone are the drummers and the pop-style rapper, and in their place is tenor saxophonist Nate Williams, whose wailings can make you weep or dance or laugh or just stop and take another look in the mirror. Still fronting the Afro-centric poetry ensemble are poets Keith M. Kelley and Quraysh Ali and bassist Oscar Brown III, who's still in charge of the musical direction. The new configuration brings the words to the fore: Here are the angry and funny tales of young black males in the city of urban life, with all its pain and tiny victories. The call and response structure of much of their material recalls Africa and the black church gospel style, but these guys also hark back to the jazzy musings of Gil Scott-Heron, the passions of Amid Baraka. The Funkys mix up a bubbling cocktail of reggae, blues, rap, and soul. More important than their influences, however, is the group's freshness: There's anger here, for sure, but there's also great love. Cafe Voltaire, 3231 N. Clark, 528-3136. July 1 through 29: Thursdays, 9:30 PM. $5.

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