By the time Patrice Rushen signed to Elektra Records after releasing three jazz albums for Prestige she decided to change her style and sound. Previously, the three albums she’d recorded for Prestige, 1974s Prelusion, 1975s Before the Dawn and 1976s Shout It Out had been traditional jazz albums. Now signed to Elektra, Patrice decided to move her music to a more jazz, quiet storm and R&B sound. On the release of Patrice her first album for Elektra, which will be released by SoulMusic.com on 30th April 2012, Patrice incurred the wrath of the jazz police. Never did she imagine the backlash she’d experience from the jazz purists and self-style jazz cognoscenti. They were outraged, vilifying the album, accusing her of selling out for commercial gain. However, Patrice had the last laugh, laughing longest and loudest, when Patrice became her most successful album, reaching number ninety-eight in the US Billboard 200, number twenty-seven in the US R&B Charts and number five in the US Jazz Charts. Since then, Patrice has been recognized as a classic of its genre, with Patrice Rushen releasing some of her best and most commercially popular albums for Elektra. Before I tell you about the music on Patrice, I’ll tell you about the background to Patrice.
When Patrice Rushen signed for Elektra, she became one of the first big names on jazz music to sign for Elektra. Soon, she’d be joined by Donald Byrd, Grover Washington Jr., Lenny White, Terry Callier and Lee Ritenour. Now signed to Elektra, the label set about working out who Patrice’s audience were. She’d just made the transition from traditional jazz to a more jazz, quiet storm and R&B sound. For her first album and new sound and style, Elektra gave Patrice a budget that allowed her to produce an album the way she wanted to. This meant a string, woodwind and horn section and some of the best musicians of the time.
In seventies Los Angeles, there were plenty of top musicians, many of whom would play on Patrice. Joining Patrice at the three studios used, Conway Recording, Group IV Recording and The Record Plant were an array of talented players. This included a rhythm section of drummerJames Gadson, bassist Freddie Washington and guitarists Al McKay and Marlo Henderson. Add to this percussionist Paulinho Da Costa and horn section that featured trumpeter Ray Brown and trombonist George Bohannon. Syreeta Wright and Jim Gilstrap who sang backing vocals on some of Stevie Wonder’s albums, contributed backing vocals on Patrice. Many of these musicians were friends, many were the best in music business. With this all-star, multitalented band full of jazz greats and Patrice playing keyboards, percussion and sang, it’s no surprise Patrice proved so successful.
On the release of Patrice in October 1978, sales surpassed that of her previous three albums. Patrice reached number ninety-eight in the US Billboard 200, number twenty-seven in the US R&B Charts and number five in the US Jazz Charts. It seemed Patrice’s decision to change her sound and style had been vindicated, regardless of what the jazz police said. The ten tracks on Patrice see Patrice and her band fusing jazz, quiet storm and R&B, which I’ll now tell you about.
Opening Patrice is Music Of The Earth, co-written by Patrice and Angela Rushen. this track features guitarist Al McKay formerly of Earth Wind and Fire, while percussionist Paulinho Da Costa and James Gadson plays drums. It’s a jazz-funk jam tinged with Latin sound. A funky guitar and rhythm section help the track burst into life, while beautiful, soulful backing vocalists combine with percussion and lush strings. Later, blazing horns punctuate the track, while strings sweep and swirl, as the backing vocalists continue to add beauty. Between the funk of the rhythm section, the blazing horns, lushness of the strings and beauty of the backing vocalists, this is an outstanding track to open the album.
On When I Found You, a beautiful, understated love song, Patrice’s vocal sounds like Minnie Riperton. The rhythm section play thoughtfully and subtly, while strings and gentle horns add to the arrangement’s beauty. Later, an alto saxophone solo winds its way above the arrangement, before being replaced by Patrice’s vocal. She’s accompanied by tender backing vocalists, rasping horns and acoustic guitar. Together, they combine to create one of the best and most beautiful tracks on Patrice.
Changes (in Your Life) opens with a tempestuous, choppy guitar solo, before the track reveals a rocky slice of jazz funk. Patrice’s vocal is much more powerful and emotive, as the rhythm section drive the track along. Backing vocalists and handclaps accompany Patrice as the track charges along, fusing jazz, funk and rocky guitars seamlessly.
After the change of sound on the previous track, Wishful Thinking written by Patrice, sees Patrice return to the beautiful sound of When I Found You. Here, the track is dreamy, ambient and full of space. Again, Patrice’s vocal is not unlike Minnie Riperton, with a similar sound and quality. It’s dreamy, drawing you in, snaring you with its ethereal sound. The arrangement has a gentle sound, with backing vocalists, woodwind, acoustic guitar and piano all key to the track’s success and sound. This track not only demonstrates just how beautiful a voice Patrice has, but how talented a singer and songwriter she is.
There’s a real Earth, Wind and Fire sound to the Reggie Andrews penned Let’s Sing A Song of Love. Straight away, there’s a jazz-funk sound, with the rhythm section joined by cascading strings and keyboards. Backing vocalists combine to deliver the vocal, while punchy horns, a meandering electric piano solo and the tightest, funkiest of rhythm sections provide the track’s heartbeat. The group backing vocals, Patrice’s piano solo and the rhythm section all play their part in making this a scintillating slice of jazz funk.
Hang It Up is another track written by Patrice, with a real uplifting, funky feel-good vibe. Blazing horns, funky rhythm section and keyboards are augmented by tight, punchy backing vocals. These backing vocals contribute to the joyous sound of the track, while the rhythm section concentrate on keeping things funky. This they do easily, playing their part in this infectiously catchy, funky track.
Cha Cha is another track written by Patrice with her sister Angela and Sheree Brown. It’s also another track where we get the chance to hear just how beautiful a voice Patrice has. Her vocal is full of emotion, while backing vocalists and guitars accompany her. The mainstay of the arrangement is the rhythm section and percussion, while the guitars and backing vocals play their part in what’s another laid-back, emotive and beautiful track.
Patrice and Freddie Washington collaborated to cowrite the fabulously funky Just A Natural Thing. It’s a track that’s very definitely funky. Wah-wah guitars augment the funky rhythm section, while punchy, braying horns and keyboards combine. Add to this soaring, backing vocalists and they’re the finishing touch to what’s a funky track, with a real feel-good sound.
Throughout Patrice, there have been a combination of jazz-funk and ballads. Didn’t You Know is another of the ballads. On Patrice, there have been three great ballads so far. Will it soon be four? The track was co-written by Sheree Brown and from the get go, it seems another beautiful ballad is unfolding. Patrice’s vocal is tender and emotive, while piano, rhythm section, acoustic guitars and the lushest of strings combine. Backing vocalists answer Patrice’s call, as her voice soars elegantly and gracefully, accompanied by strings. Like the other trio of ballads on Patrice, Didn’t You Know didn’t disappoint, with Patrice delivering a vocal laden with emotion and passion.
Closing Patrice is Play co-written by Patrice and Charles Mims Jr. Here, Patrice seems determined to close her first album for new label Elektra on a memorable high. This she does. Blazing horns, rhythm section, percussion, keyboards and backing vocalists combine to create a dynamic and sometimes, dramatic slice of jazz-funk. Hissing hi-hats, a funky rhythm section and jazz-tinged keyboards are key to this, while backing vocalists, handclaps and blazing horns all play vital roles. Together, they ensure that Patrice closes in a memorable, musical high.
Patrice Rushen’s fourth album Patrice is a joy to listen to. In equal measures you’ve jazz-funk and beautiful ballads. To me, the ballads are among the best tracks on Patrice, with Patrice’s interpretation of the lyrics a mixture of beauty, emotion and passion. On the jazz-funk tracks, Patrice and her all-star band kick loose, showing that she and her band can outdo the best of jazz-funk bands. This isn’t surprising given personnel that accompany her on the album’s ten tracks. She was joined by some of the biggest, most successful musicians in the business. With trombonist George Bohannon, drummer James Gadson, bassist Freddie Washington, guitarist Al McKay and percussionist Paulinho Da Costa plus backing vocalists that included Syreeta Wright and Jim Gilstrap, these were some of the best players in the seventies. Their playing is flawless and peerless, as is Patrice’s keyboard playing, singing and songwriting. For anyone who loves either jazz-funk, R&B, quiet storm or singers like Minnie Riperton, then Patrice is an album that’s a must-have. It’s welcome rerelease by SoulMusic.com on 30th April 2012 of Patrice will allow everyone to hear one of the greatest album released by Patrice Rushen during her long and illustrious career. Standout Tracks: When I Found You, Wishful Thinking, Let’s Sing A Song of Love and Cha Cha.