Lifestyle

Patrice Rushen’s 4-Night Stand Hits Sweet Notes in Downtown Baltimore

BALTIMORE — A four-night, sold-out gig proved enlightening for Keystone Korner owner Todd Barkan and star performing artist, Patrice Rushen (pronounced ra-SHONN).

From Thursday, July 22 through Sunday, July 25, the woman nicknamed “Baby
Fingers” due to her small hands and ability to capture all 88 keys with a certain brilliance and power, likewise captured the hearts and minds of hundreds of music enthusiasts, who entered the swank, new environment of the Keystone Korner – the DMV’s newest venue primarily dedicated to straight-ahead, traditional jazz music.

And it’s on that note that Patrice responded to the many customers who
attended her Baltimore shows seeking the Patrice known for Grammy-Award
winning funk tunes like “Forget Me Nots” and “Haven’t You Heard.”

“No, this is not my time to perform those songs,” she said with a serious face during a pre-show interview on Sunday night. Instead, she opted for classic jazz tunes like “I Mean You” by Thelonious Monk and “Mr. P.C” by Stanley Turrentine.

Baltimore couple Ricky Campbell and his wife Tammy were two fans who hoped for more of the funkier side of Patrice. “That’s why I came,” said Tammy, adding, “If I’d known she’d play jazz all night, I don’t think we would’ve come. I’m serious, I wanted to hear some “Forget Me Nots” and “Feel So Real,” she added. On Thursday, another patron, Deborah
Cummings, also of Baltimore, said she appreciated witnessing Patrice’s “musicality and skills. I just enjoyed seeing her perform – she’s a special talent,” added Ms. Cummings.

Fred and Linda Massey of Germantown, Md. said they enjoyed witnessing the more classical-jazzier skills of the South Central LA-born musician. 

“She was fantastic,” said Mrs. Massey, a Bronx, N.Y. native – noting that she and her husband were celebrating their first wedding anniversary. Mr. Massey hails from Brownsville, Pa. – ironically, home
to famed drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, another one of Patrice’s favorite
drummers. She said her fav- drummers list also includes Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Leon Ndugu Chancellor, Harvey Mason, Will Kennedy, James Gadson Sonny Emory and John “JR” Robinson. After Marvin “Smitty” Smith’s standout performance, it’s a good bet he’ll be added to her special list. Speaking of star-studded stick-men, Baltimore native Dennis Chambers and his lovely wife caught the second show of the Thursday night performance. Chambers, 62, is highly acclaimed for his work with George Clinton and P-Funk along with his stints with Carlos Santana, Brecker Brothers and George Duke.

On another note, veteran tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts, 75, played the first night with Patrice’s quartet, but after his Thursday performance, Mr. Watts was carted off on a stretcher, after emergency EMT personnel tended to him after he experienced “shortness of breath,” according to owner Mr. Barkan.

On Sunday night, Mr. Barkan announced to the crowd that Watts had indeed suffered a heart attack, but had recovered after receiving a stent – and made a full recovery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in downtown Baltimore.

Baltimore-bred saxophonist Tim Green, said he received the call Friday, around noon to replace Watts. Drummer “Smitty” Smith and bassist  Reggie Hamilton, both noted their approval with Green’s performances.

“The fact that he can read (music), has a great memory – and heart and soul, is what’s important,” added “Smitty”. Patrice was obviously enthused about her backing musicians, including the legendary Watts.

The Sunday night drum solo by “Smitty” took the club by storm, and brought down the proverbial house with roars and screams for the veteran drummer – formerly of Jay Leno’s late-night TV band fame. The Chicago area musician said he continues to perform jazz, even if the stage is not of national TV origins.

“Gotta keep on giggin’,” said the drummer who exudes a joyful existence off and onstage. His toothy, nearly-permanent smile says it all.

Patrice did acknowledge her sadness upon being notified of the recent demise and closure of the iconic D.C. jazz club, Blues Alley. “Well, it’s great we’ve got this place to compensate for its loss,’ she added.
The Patrice Rushen Quartet is scheduled to play the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival on Sept. 19, she said. She didn’t recall playing Baltimore anytime in recent years, but truly enjoyed returning to the fold with Mr. Barkan. In 1974, she played her first professional gig at Todd’s original Keystone Korner location in San Francisco, along with drummer Ngugu Chancellor and Tony Dumas on bass. “It was a fine trio,” she recalled.

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