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Opening with a bang

The opening night of Standard Bank Joy of Jazz is a not-to-be-missed musical feast.

On the bill are Auriol Hays and the big band sounds of the Gauteng Jazz orchestra; Brian Temba and R&B maestro Rahsaan Patterson.

Patterson will be making his second trip to South Africa for the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz – and he can’t wait to connect with his fans.

The R&B star Patterson will be opening the festival in Newtown on Thursday, August 26, and will be joined on the bill by Auriol Hays and the Gauteng Jazz Orchestra and Brian Temba, back from a successful stint in The Lion King on London’s West End.

‘I love to feel the energy of the people when I’m on stage,” Patterson said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

The 36-year-old singer, who has contributed songs to a wide variety of artists whose combined record sales have topped the 10-million mark, said he came to Durban in 2008 and performed at a festival there.

‘It was wonderful and I am looking forward to coming back.”

He is ‘excited” at the prospects of performing at the Joy of Jazz. ‘I always want to perform in front of people who want to hear me. From me you can expect good music, good spirits, hopefully songs that people will look forward to hearing and just a good, positive evening.”

On the creative front, Patterson will try his best to do as many tracks as possible from each album. ‘It is difficult to decide what to do, but I try to pick a couple of songs from every album.”

‘I will be bringing out my own band, but haven’t decided who will be coming. It’s going to be wonderful building the energy. We are going to vibe.”

Patterson knew from an early age that music was his destiny. He was performing in his Pentecostal church choir by the age of six and his talent and precociousness led his family to relocate to California, where he started a TV career. But music was in his soul, and Patterson began honing his craft and reaching out to other musicians in the Los Angeles area. His unique sense of melody and lyric soon netted him songwriting placements, with hit songs for Tevin Campbell, Chico DeBarge, Christopher Williams and Jody Watley.

Patterson said he is familiar with African artists and listed many of his favourites that included Angelique Kidjo, Jonathan Butler, Hugh Masekela, the late Miriam Makeba, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

‘It will be good to see the other artists there as well, particularly the artists that are from South Africa. I’d love to do workshops and interact with some of the South African musicians,” he said.

‘I vibed overseas with South African musicians, they are good and we had a good time. I liked the spirit of their musicianship and how it added to my music and gave it a different element.”

He’s positive he’ll return home deeply influenced by Africa. With a new album scheduled for release early next year, who knows where the spirit will take him. ‘All the musicians I meet and work with are my teachers and I listen intently.”

‘Many things inspire me such as love, of course, children, the stars, planets and astrology.”

Patterson, who as an actor was best known for portraying ‘The Kid” on the popular 1980s television show Kids Incorporated, views his ability to perform as a form of meditation. ‘It allows me to travel to other places virtually constantly. It’s great that I have the ability to do that.”

Asked where he felt more at home, on stage or in the studio, he replied: ‘Oh, they are so different. I love the intimacy of the studio. I am able to create in the studio to hone my vision and give it life. On stage it’s so much more spontaneous, to feel the energy of the people which has to do with where the energy goes and how the musician’s play. The communication there is very strong when you have a crowd of people giving you energy.”

When asked whether his forthcoming album was different from his earlier work, he responded: ‘I would say yes, and I would say no. It’s very much the same in spirit and the fact that musically and lyrically it’s made from the heart, and it is me, but I would also say it’s a more progressive album than my first. They all have the same root and heart. Sonically things change and advance so it’s just a more advanced album.”

He finds it ‘a blessing” to be able to write and perform and is acutely aware of the influence he and other big artists have on people. ‘I do see myself as a role model.” He said, ‘I had to grow into being comfortable with that because I wasn’t always comfortable with that idea.”

Since his self-title debut album in 1997, which spawned the hits Where Are You and the funky Stop By, Rahsaan Patterson has not looked back and his trip to South Africa is yet another milestone in his unfolding career.

– Rahsaan Patterson performs on the Dinaledi Stage on Thursday, August 26 and appears with Lalah Hathaway on Saturday, August 28.

– Standard Bank Joy of Jazz runs from August 26 to 28 in Newtown. The 2010 line-up features Ravi Coltrane, Kim Waters, Stacey Kent, Poncho Sanchez, Fourplay, Sadao Watanabe, Anat Cohen, Oumou Sangare, Sipho ‘Hotstix” Mabuse, Wanda Baloyi, Kyle Shepherd, Putuma, Nhlanhla Nciza, Tsepo Tshola, Melanie Scholtz, Rahsaan Patterson, Brian Temba , Auriol Hayes, Chris Botti and Lalah Hathaway. For more information on the line-up and venues go to www.joyofjazz.co.za.

–Information supplied by Standard Bank Joy of Jazz

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