BEVERLY HILLS-When noted crooner Jeffrey Osborne takes the stage for the first time as a performer at the Playboy Jazz Festival in June, he will be returning to his roots. In some ways he already has. Osborne, one of the most soulful singers of all-time, will be sharing the stage with legendary producer and jazz musician George Duke.
It is fittingly that the pair would be on stage together since Duke collaborated with the longtime R&B/pop balladeer on Osborne’s latest CD, “A Time for Love.” If “A Time for Love” is anything like Osborne’s hit-making solo album “Stay With Me Tonight” or smash single “We’re Going All the Way,” which Duke produced, then great reviews are bound to come.
“A Time for Love,” a collection of songs that pays homage to jazz standards, puts Osborne back into the limelight. And that’s a good thing for many of his devoted followers. It’s also a great thing for Playboy Jazz Festival devotees to hear this vocal icon belt out songs like nobody else can.
The former lead singer of the R&B group L.T.D., Osborne’s deep-throated, raspy voice has been the signature sound on hits like Love Ballad, We Both Deserve Each Other’s Love, Stranger and (Every Time I Turn Around) Back in Love Again.
After splitting L.T.D, Osborne moved up the ladder, enjoying success in the pop genre as a solo artist with hits like “You Should Be Mine.” Now he gets his opportunity to sing live in front of a jazz-enthused audience at the Playboy Jazz Festival.
Attending a press conference held at the Playboy Mansion announcing the talent lineup for this year’s Playboy Jazz Festival, Osborne said he is excited about performing. News4usonline.com caught up with Osborne for a few minutes to get his take on being invited to the Playboy Jazz Festival stage.
News4usonline.com: Can you talk about being part of the Playboy Jazz Festival and what it means to you?
JO: “It’s incredible. The timing couldn’t be better for me. I just released a jazz standards record. George Duke produced it. It’s called “A Time for Love,” and it’s just a wonderful thing. I know all of these guys, been hanging out with them for years…George [Duke] and Herbie [Hancock], and all of these guys, with Stanley Clarke. It’s about time I got on this festival.”
News4usonline.com: Has it been a steady path towards going in the direction of jazz for you?
JO: “I grew up with jazz. I’m the youngest of twelve in my family. I had to listen to what they wanted to listen to before I could listen to what I wanted to listen to. It’s very natural thing for me. It’s really my roots. My father was a jazz trumpet player. He played with [Duke] Ellington, [Count] Basie, so I got it naturally.”
News4usonline.com: So why didn’t you pursue going into jazz in the beginning of your career as opposed to going into R&B?
JO: “Well, when I was coming up the Motown era was in. I was singing doo-wop on the corner. My dad was playing jazz at night, I’m singing doo-wop and I got my first break with L.T.D. They came through my hometown, so that’s where I ended up…doing R&B.”
News4usonline.com: Can you talk about the progression of going from singing love songs like “Love Ballad” to what you’re doing today?
JO: “It’s nothing but another song to me. It’s all the same. The only way I treated it differently is that I really stick to the melody. With R&B, you can float around and sing all these licks and everything, but this kind of a record I wanted to stick strictly to the melody. The melody is so beautiful. You don’t have to do anything. You can over sing the record, and I didn’t want to over sing this record, so I stuck to the melody, and I had a great guy behind me producing me in George Duke. It’s a beautiful thing when you can fit your voice in the middle of his orchestration…it’s a win-win situation there.”
News4usonline.com: What’s your relationship like with George [Duke]?
JO: “He produced my first three solo albums, so we have an incredible relationship. I don’t know why I got away from him, but it was one of the record company decisions; you made three records with George, let’s to move in another direction. It was the worst mistake I’ve ever made. So finally I got a chance to get back with him and this is his roots, too. It was great for us to come together to make this record. “
News4usonline.com: Do you feel at home singing jazz?
JO: “Yes. It’s very natural. A song is a song. You just sing it. My father used to tell me years ago, ‘Boy, if you can’t sing a whole in that note, you can’t sing.’ That’s the most important thing to me. If I can touch you with a whole note I feel like I’ve done my job. I can sing a million riffs, but they don’t touch anybody. If you can touch somebody with a whole note, then you’re singing.”