Already the home of two popular open mic nights each week, Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar is launching a third, "Project: Groove," Wednesday night (Jan. 8).
Itself a project of The JT Project—which is a collaboration of bassist/keyboardist and musical director Jacob Webb and saxophonist Todd Schefflin, whose initials are the basis of the act’s name—Project: Groove will be a weekly open jam featuring local, regional, and national touring musicians and artists who have worked with the likes of Beyonce, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Lauryn Hill, Justin Timberlake, Kenny Garrett, Mulgrew Miller and Ashford & Simpson.
Among other creative activities, Schefflin plays sax in Valerie Simpson’s band. With The JT Project, he has recorded three albums (Love Passion Correspondence, Love Passion Correspondence Vol. 2 and Love Passion Correspondence Vol. 3) and toured internationally in establishing a growing fan base.
The JT Project, a mix of jazz, R&B, soul, pop and gospel music, also includesWebb’s siblings Nathan Webb on drums and vocalist April Webb, along with bassist Ross Alston, drummer Quincy Brayton and guitarist Nat Janoff.
In much the manner of Tuesday night’s blues-centered “Nuttin’ But The Blues” open mic, "Project: Groove" will open with a set from The JT Project, followed by jamming with vocalists and players who sign up to perform.
“Nuttin’ But The Blues” also features a house band--the Back Alley Players—who back a featured artist (usually a vocalist) for an opening set before signees are called to the stage. Thursday night’s famous open mic uses a stellar house band who back everyone in a heavily R&B-based evening that regularly brings in top New York and visiting performers.
Speaking as both musician and restaurateur, Simpson says, “I can’t wait to hear what the JT Project is going to cook up for Wednesdays. But I’m sure it will be flavorful and oh-so-tasty.”
And as Schefflin’s employer, she adds, “Todd’s sax playing always makes me reach higher, so I’ll probably be in the clouds!”
And as an open mic presenter, Simpson concludes, “It’s our third open mic night, and opens up a new genre for the Sugar Bar.”
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