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GoingOutGuide.com Summer Concerts: Neo-Soul night with V Rich, Maimouna Youssef and Afi Soul


Editorial Review

Tickets (maximum four tickets per adult) are distributed the day of performance at the Carter Barron box office, 16th Street and Colorado Avenue NW, beginning at noon, or at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Tickets go fast! There are no scheduled rain dates. Picnic areas are available in the park around the amphitheater. For more information, call The Post at 202-334-6808 or the Carter Barron concert line, which will have updated information on weather-related cancellations, at 202-426-0486. All concerts start at 7:30 p.m.

V. Rich: Fulfilling his soulful ambitions
Classically trained pianist V. Rich wants to start a movement.

With the release of his first solo EP, he hopes to be "the flagship artist" who builds a solid soul-music fan base here in Washington. "It's ambitious," Rich says. "But I've always been ambitious, and I've always met those goals."

The son of a Michigan preacher, Vincent Richardson grew up listening to classical music. At 13, his family moved to Maryland, where he attended Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Beltsville and Laurel High School. Piano lessons in the Richardson house were mandatory for him and his three brothers, but it was Rich who earned a full music scholarship to Carnegie Mellon University.

Rich soon realized, however, that the life of a classical pianist entailed long hours alone, holed up in a practice room. He transferred to Howard University to start a band with his brother. "D.C. had much more music around and different genres and more musicians I had access to," he says. The band, Lauda, played for about four years.

"We were doing really well. We worked with the U Street scene: Raheem DeVaughn, Navasha Daya from Fertile Ground, Deborah Bond, K'Alyn, Wayna, W. Ellington Felton," Rich says. "We were all just in that U Street movement back then. It was a little bit before U Street turned around. We were through that transition."

After graduating cum laude from Howard with a degree in piano performance, Rich wanted to write and produce songs. He had been singing on and off in choirs since he was 3 years old but never considered himself a singer. "I always wanted to be a behind-the-scenes person," he says. When he was about 10, singing in a boys choir in a production of "Tosca" at Connecticut's Shubert Theater, Luciano Pavarotti himself reprimanded Rich for his backup vocals.

"I knew all of [Pavarotti's] parts," Rich recalls. "So I was singing along with him." The late great singer was not impressed, according to Rich, and told him: "You can't sing with me. People are going to think it's you singing."

But with sweet, soulful pipes that hint of Michael Jackson, Rich was destined to sing out. His EP is a showcase of sultry songs highlighting thick and tight vocal harmonies, surprising piano accompaniment that speaks to his years of music theory and harshly honest lyrics. The complete album, "Addicted," is scheduled to be released by the end of the year and will include collaborations with Big Pooh of Little Brother and Eric Roberson.

"My music, it's a great blend between R&B, soul, hip-hop and classical music," Rich says. "It has a small piece of each of those elements. It basically makes a new sound within soul music."

With his own production company and record label and private lessons here and there, Rich is a full-time musician. He has worked with Washington R&B artist Mya and recently opened for En Vogue at the Birchmere. He has a distribution deal in the works as well as a collaborative album with D.C. musicians set for release later this year.

And he's pounding the pavement to build that movement.

"If you put your mind to it and you're constantly working hard - I mean nothing's put in your lap - but if you're constantly working hard to accomplish your goals, then it will happen," he says.

These days, every now and then, Rich is recognized on the street. That, he says, "is kind of confirmation that you're doing what you're setting out to do."

--Moira E. McLaughlin, July 2010