Rahsaan Patterson is one of the most talented and critically acclaimed - but popularly underappreciated - Soul singers of the past two decades. In his recording career he has created a series of wonderful songs that cross the urban, smooth jazz, gospel and UAC genres, with his Chaka Khan-like tenor voice gliding over interesting and varied arrangements.
Born and raised in New York, Patterson was named after jazz saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk and grew up in a musical household, with Stevie Wonder, Rufus, Miles Davis and Earth Wind & Fire regularly playing on the stereo. Those sounds and the music of the church (Rahsaan began singing in the choir at age 6) shaped and developed his love of multiple music styles.
As a young adult in Calfornia, Patterson began a successful songwriting career, working with Tevin Campbell, Jody Watley and Brandy. In 1997, he signed with the troubled MCA label and recorded his eponymous debut album, a fine, soulful disc that was more interesting than the majority of "neo soul" releases of that time, boasting sophisticated, melodic material like "My Sweetheart," "Where You Are" and "Joy" as well as sensitive ballads such as "Tears Ago." The album and "Where You Are" each made it halfway up the Soul charts, but didn't get the airplay they deserved.
Patterson returned two years later with Love In Stereo, an album that was not quite as strong as the first but that nonetheless included some notable cuts, including "Treat You Like a Queen" and "Get Here." It also marked Patterson's first work with Van Hunt, who would become a critical fave with his 2003 solo debut. Over the next five years, as MCA died a slow death, Patterson continued to sing and write for other artists, including jazz artists Jonathan Butler, Brian Culbertson and Jimmy Sommers, as well as a number of movie soundtracks.
Patterson returned on the hot young U.K.-based Dome label in early 2004 with After Hours. It was released in the US in October, 2004. It was three years before he followed up with the tour de force, Wines and Spirits, a fantastic album that showed Patterson to be at a creative peak. It won the SoulTracks Readers' Choice Award for Best Album and became a smash around the world.
In 2008, Patterson issued a moderate surprise: a funky, very enjoyable holiday album, The Ultimate Gift. He followed it three years later with the more experimental bleuphoria, another fan favorite that earned him a SoulTracks award.
by Chris Rizik
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