Poetry, music merge into one

By Trina Trice

When four Atlanta artists get together on a stage at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center, their talents merge into one. And that merger is equivalent to having five performing.

Thus the name "Five Men on a Stool," whose members are performing Saturday at 7 p.m. at the PAC.

Hank Stewart, poet and spoken word artist, formed the group in 1998, saying, "It was almost an accident."

While performing in various venues, Stewart met saxophonist Antonio Allen.

Gradually, Ken Ford, violinist, and Leonard Julien, vocalist, were added to the mix.

Stewart thinks of himself as a liaison between heaven and paper. He puts a heavy emphasis on spirituality in his poetry. That spirituality is the common thread in the group.

"We connect spiritually in that all gifts come from God," Stewart said.

Allen's first performance was at age 15 opening up for Stevie Wonder, Jermaine Jackson, Al B. Sure and Jean Carne at a local Atlanta nightclub.

Allen has performed with such artists as Jene Carne, Wayman Tisdale and Arrested Development.

He has also made a guest appearance on the television series, "In the Heat of the Night."

"One day I found a saxophone lying around the house, I picked it up and began playing," Allen said. "My ability to play is a gift from God, it is something that comes naturally."

Ford began playing violin at an early age.

He has opened for jazz artist Boney James and neo-Soul vocalist D'Angelo at former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell's Super Bowl Party and for the 24th annual Jazz Festival and the 14th annual Montreux Atlanta Music Festival in Piedmont Park.

Stewart is a fan of Julien's voice because he's a "strong male vocalist" reminiscent of Barry White and Teddy Pendergrass.

Julien sang the vocals for David Ruffin in the movie, "The Temptations."

Leonard can also be heard playing the baritone sax on the rap group Outkast's song, "The Whole World."

"Everybody brings a different element to the group," Stewart said. "We're almost like a basketball team, each one has a different position, a different style."

Those who attend the event Saturday night should go with an open mind and no preconceptions.

"There's nothing you can compare it to," Stewart asserted. "In the midst of the fun, a message is rendered. If you've never seen the show, expect the unexpected."

What can be expected, though, is that the proceeds from Saturday's performance will go to several different charities, said Gail Davenport, president of the local chapter of the RainbowPUSH Coalition.

The proceeds will help the Clayton County fundraising campaign for the United Negro College Fund, The National Council of Negro Women, RainbowPUSH Coalition, and Concerned Black Citizens Coalition of Clayton County.

"We think it's such a good positive performance that the people will enjoy," Davenport said.