"Apothecary RX"

Giant Step

Writer and performance artist Carl Hancock Rux comes to town this week to present "Mycenean," a mixed-media piece based on both contemporary issues and the ancient Mediterranean world as depicted by Homer and Euripides. The deep-voiced New Yorker also recently released an album, "Apothecary RX," that is considerably more effective than his diverse resume might suggest.

Unlike some multidisciplinary types, Rux understands that a recording needs to stand on its own. "Apothecary RX" is suitably conceptual and literary, but it is above all musical.

The album is a canny melange of many traditions, including the politically pointed jazz poetry of Gil Scott-Heron and the Last Poets, the socially conscious pop-funk of early '70s Motown and the moody Brit-hop of Tricky and Massive Attack. Rux and co-producer Stewart Lerman don't consistently rival the shifting textures and intricate layers of Tricky's masterpiece, "Maxinquaye," but they come close with such tracks as "Ground" and "Lamentations." Although Rux is a deft wordsmith, his themes are not always fresh: The capsule African American history of "I Got a Name," for example, is familiar stuff. Unlike many poets who find themselves in a recording studio, however, Rux knows how to boost even his lesser lyrics with insinuating melodies and taut grooves.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Thursday and Sept. 17 at National Geographic Society's Grosvenor Auditorium. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Carl Hancock Rux, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8124. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)