Patrice Louise Rushen (born September 30) is quite the jazz pianist and R&B singer. She’s also a composer, record producer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and music director. Her 1982 single, “Forget Me Nots“, received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Rushen had great success on the R&B and dance charts. “Haven’t You Heard” went number 7 on the R&B charts, with “Forget Me Nots” as her only top 40 pop hit. Patrice is held high within the Jazz community as one of the Best of her generation on piano.
In her teens, she attended south LA’s Locke High School and went on to earn a degree in music from the University of Southern California. Respectfully known among her legions of fans as “Baby-fingers,” a reference to her small hands. Berklee School of Music bestowed on her, a Doctorate in Music. She is currently holding down an important academic post at the University of Southern California in their school of Performing Arts. all the while being a wife,a mom, and still taking first-calls for recording and production assignments in Television and Films. There are rumors floating around ,she may have been selected to be part of an ambitious Television project involving children and the jazz legacy of Hazel Scott. Who by the way, was a child prodigy just like Patrice. According to unnamed sources,we found out, there’s a new children’s book series(Little Melanie) being developed for Television involving British and American kids in the cast.
Ms. Rushen will supervised the musical aspects. a London-based production studio. London-5-Studios are the executive producers. #LittleMelanieMyGrandPiano, #London5Studios
Once in a lunar eclipse weekend you might get some pretty good entertainment in selected spots around Los Angeles, but to get great jazz, that requires planning ahead and research. for the last 39 years , in an unlikely area of south central Los Angeles wedged between a Junior high school , railroad tracks, some proud residents, and a Los Angeles landmark , built by an immigrant, Simon Rhodia of concrete, steel and broken glass.
The Watts Towers Jazz Festival took its familiar bow September 26 & 27th . The festival features a “Day of the Drum“, with supporting activities of all cultures and ethnicities celebration of drums, throw in Jazz from around the world by local, regional and international musicians performing on a live stage that looked like a revival tent. This writer had planned in advance to get there in time to catch Carmen Lundy & Patrice Rushen performing as single acts , but also together as well.
Carmen took the stage with her own group featuring her iconic bassist and brother, Curtis Lundy. After a couple of hot jazz numbers , Carmen called up Patrice to sit in with her group on selections from her 14th new CD as a leader. Rushen was simply stellar in her improvisations on cuts like “Life is a Song in Me” and title track, “Soul to Soul”. In my humble opinion , this is Grammy material. grab a copy at your usual source for purchasing music online.
Patrice Rushen and Ndugu are both products of the Watts community ,while being alumni of Locke High school under the mentorship of musician /Educator Reggie Andrews. Patrice and Ndugu fronted an all-star band of Nedra Wheeler on Bass and Justo Almario on saxophone, Munyungo Jackson on percussion. In their set they chose to celebrate the genius of several iconic jazz masters, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Horace Silver, and a couple of others to the audience’s delight.
Weekend’s events were beautifully MC’d by Jazz program host James Janisse, and Poet Laureate and Griot ,Kamau Daood.
It’s not often you get an opportunity to actually watch the professional growth of a musician up-close through most of their career,but in the case of Leon “Ndugu” Chanceler,I did. There’s many good things about growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s or 60s..You had opportunities a kid from Shreveport, Louisiana during that era was never going to have. My parents moved us to Los Angeles in 1960.
By 1963,I was learning saxophone and music theory. As in the case of Ndugu Chanceler, he too was from Shreveport, Louisiana. he started playing and studying music at 13,He grew up in LA (Watts area)in the 60s,just like me! I graduated from Cal State University Dominguez Hills, so did he. I guess that makes us kindred spirits and “Home Boys”. But that’s where the the meter on his side rises and explodes off the Charts. One Night, I was attending the famous jazz club, the Lighthouse where Willie Bobo & the BoGents were the group performing. Willie Bobo, a Purveyor of great talent,a master drummer- percussionist himself. He no longer playing the “Traps”.
Bobo was out front now on timbales and vocals.. but, seated behind this mountain of drums,cymbals,and gear, was this youngster who hardly looked all of 15 or so. It was,at that time Leon(Ndugu) on drums. And man! could he play. I cut my teeth on listening to all the jazz masters on drums and seeing all I could, when they came to the Lighthouse or Shelly’s Manne Hole in Los Angeles. Billy Higgins,Frank Butler, Louis Hayes,Max Roach and Art Blakey frequented the LA club scene often.. I now have a guy from my generation who displays all of the jazz history and legacy into his playing AND,then piles on monstrous groove patterns at tremendous tempos with the greatest of ease,smiling like he just ate the canary! That was my introduction to Ndugu Chanceler!
In my humble opinion, the two “baddest Cats” on drums coming out of Los Angeles late 60s to early 70s were, Ndugu Chanceler and “Sunship” Theus(RIP) another great drummer from my generation. These drummers were younger than Jack DeJohnette, Billy Hart,Billy Cobham, but still played on a higher level as the 70s emerged. Jazz went all “Electric Fusion”,Fender Rhodes pianos Synthisizers(MOOG)technology was in play, and Ndugu was was right in the middle of that music era strong! Still maintaining his roots in Jazz performing with the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Bobby Hutcherson, and Gerald Wilson Big Band. In a flash of an eye, doubling up on calls with George Duke, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock’s Jazz Fusion bands. In addition, his recording sessions list was equally stellar also. Chanceler has also worked with Stanley Clarke,Jean-Luc Ponty,Donna Summer,George Duke,Patrice Rushen,Carlos Santana,Hubert Laws,The Crusaders,Frank Sinatra,Weather Report,Lionel Richie,Kenny Rogers,Thelonious Monk,Herbie Hancockand John Lee Hooker. Most famous of all, The King of Pop.” Michael Jackson! THE Drummer on Thriller’s Billy Jean”.
Ndugu(Leon)Chanceler, from his humble beginnings in Los Angeles at Holy Chapel Missionary Baptist Church under Pastor William Cobbs,to, Grammy winning recordings,to being honored at the University of Southern California’s www.usc.edu/visionsandvoices Visions and Voices Humanities & Arts program Sept 23.
Chanceler is also a member of Percussive Arts Societyand has been named as one of the top 25 Drummers in the world! Follow Robert J. Carmack discussions and reviews on jazz at twitter: @blues2jazzguy