Patrice Rushen brought West Coast heat to cold, snow-bound DC venue

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By Timothy Cox
Editor-n-Chief
Seventies Soul

The Saturday Jan. 14, 2024 evening when Patrice Rushen brought her entourage from the warm West Coast to the cold DC Region, was quite timely.

On this night, just one day before the region would be slammed by an unseasonable winter snow storm, Patrice and her band brought the heat and warmed up the Birchmere Theater stage with the funk-jazz compositions that has propelled Patrice to a legendary figure in the jazz world.

At age 69, the LA-Watts native aka “Baby Fingers” started the night with a sizzling self-penned composition simply known as “Number One.” The instrumental jazz tune was an excellent choice to kick-off the night. Good complimentary horns in the way of alto saxophonist Rastine Calhoun and the big-man trumpeter Chris Gray also of LA’s Watts community.

With an onstage backdrop displaying her debut album on Elektra Records, the album most of real fans describe as the “purple-blue” album, Patrice failed to disappoint, as she immediately delved into three tunes from that iconic LP – “Hang It Up,” “Music of the Earth” and the sweet ballad, “Your Love.” The young guitar ace, Ezo Iannello was a stellar one, on this particular night – as one would expect from being the young prodigy of Paul Jackson Jr.

The groove foundations laid down by bassist Andrew Ford and drummer Rayford Griffin, of Jean-Luc Ponty/Stanley Clarke fame —  were impeccable, and very noticeable on “Music of the Earth – as both gents read Patrice’s funky-charted syncopations it was obviously interpreted to ultimate perfection.

Meanwhile, Patrice brought along a wealth of talented players mostly all who were born on the West Cost. Joining Rushen, Rayford and Enzo were alto saxophonist Rastine Calhoun; the lovely Alexis Angulo, keys and vocals and stage manager/background vocalist Jim Moran.

Other stellar tunes on the setlist included “You Remind Me,” “Haven’t You Heard,” “Forget Me Nots” and “Feel So Real” represented Patrice’s finest recorded music at its best live in living color.

Backstage, Rushen said her first visit to the 500-seat Birchmere DC-Virginia theater, “won’t be her last.”

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