Patrice Rushen was the original headliner for last night's show at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. But when Ray, Goodman & Brown's single, "Special Lady," hit the Top 10, the trio became the headliners and Rushen the opener. This was as it should be, for Ray, Goodman & Brown are seasoned pros with a definite sound, whereas Rushen has tons of talent but no clear idea of how to use it.
Ray, Goodman & Brown were the Moments in the '60s, and their sound is still rooted in the satiny, soul harmonies of that period. Wearing identical white cowboy suits and stepping through almost idential choreography, they sang "Love Is a Two-Way Street" and other early hits. Their newer songs also relied on vocal parts fitted precisely as clock parts.
Patrice Rushen has a gorgeous ballad voice with a gentle tone and a wide range. She's an accomplished jazz pianist who has recorded with Jean-Luc Ponty, Sonny Rollins and Donald Byrd. But like George Benson, she has abandoned her jazz past for bland pop-soul. Rushen's original compositions are formula exercises in love ballads and disco. Like too many studio musicians, she is technically proficient but conceptually deficient.