Feb 23, 2010
Podcast 177 is a conversation with Patrice Rushen, who many know from her R&B days (“Forget-Me-Nots” ) but who is a crack jazz musician. Skilled in electric and acoustic jazz, she has served as musical director for Janet Jackson’s tour and the Grammy Award Show, as well as composing pop, classical and jazz music. She’s teaching at USC and helping at Berklee in Boston as well, helping educate the next generation of jazz musicians.
She’s passing through my town on Northampton, Massachusetts as a member of the Buster Williams Quartet, playing the Iron Horse Music Hall on February 23 with Lenny White on drums and Mark Gross on saxophone. I talked with her about her recent collaborations with Babatunde Lea and Cindy Blackman, her musical past and influences, and where she hopes to go next. Click here to listen to the conversation, along with music selections:
Babatunde Lea – “Cousin Mary” from Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas. The master percussionist Babtunde tapped Patrice as the pianist/vocalist on his tribute to his friend, collaborator and mentor, the late vocalist Leon Thomas. The band is top notch on this John Coltrane number, with Ernie Watts on saxophone, Dwight Tribe on lead vocals, and Gary Brown on bass.
Cindy Blackman – “Wildlife” from Another Lifetime. Drummer Blackman and Patrice have been friends for years, but never got a chance to record together until this new release, Cindy’s tribute to her mentor Tony Williams. The band is Vernon Reid (Living Colour) on guitar, Patrice on keyboards, Mike Stern on guitar, Doug Carn on organ and David Santos on bass.
Patrice Rushen – “Forget-Me-Nots” from Straight From the Heart. Signign with Elektra Records in the early 1980’s, Patrice pioneered the melding of jazz and R&B/funk that would make crossover stars of her, George Benson and George Duke. Here is her biggest hit, which was refashioned by Will Smith as the theme from “Men In Black” years later. The core band is composed of jazz standouts, including on bass, on guitar, and on saxophone.
Stanley Clarke-Patrice Rushen-Nudugu Cahndler – “Take Five” from Jazz Straight Up. An acoustic trio with the Return to Forever bassist, Patrice on piano and Nudugu on drums shows the more sensitive and refined style Patrice can bring to jazz. A fine reworked version of the Brubeck-Desmond classic.
Patrice Rushen – “Haw-Right Now” from Prelusion. At the tender age of 20, Patrice was leading a session that featured legendary tenor saxophonist , trombonist , and trumpeter , all veterans of the West Coast jazz scene. This fine slice of jazz-funk from 1974 still sizzles. Check out the album cover and dig the classic afro on Patrice!