originally posted onto the Newark Symphony Hall blog here.
With the turn of each decade “Mr. Woo Woo” himself, Jeffrey Osborne, has continued to reinvent himself as well as his music. Beginning his lengthy 40-year career in the music industry, as a member of the famous Funk group L.T.D. singing hits such as “(Every Time I Turn Around) Back In Love Again” and “Holding On (When Love Is Gone)” to name a few, Osborne took o lap of faith and began to pursue a solo career. Music lovers around the world quickly fell in love with the sweet sounds of Osborne. With hits such as “Love Ballad”, “You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song”, “She’s On The Left” and “Love Power”, Newark Symphony Hall is proud to have welcomed Jeffrey Osborne to our Sarah Vaughan Concert Hall in the Mother’s Day Weekend Concert, on Friday, May 9 also featuring The Whispers.
Recently I was able to speak with Osborne to get his take on his longevity, reinventing his sounds, his new album A Time For Love, working with the late George Duke, and more.
Over the years, you’ve sung in several different genres including Funk, Soul and R&B. How do you freshen up your music?
Basically just staying in touch with what’s going on around you. You know, I’ve been [recording music] for a long time. For over 40 years and it seems that every decade or so there is a new kind groove, especially with r&b music. R&b music changes more than any other type of music that I know! It’s R&B, it’s Funk, it’s Hip-Hop so it’s basically staying in touch with the people. I’m out a lot so I get to do shows and hang out a little bit and listen to what people are dancing to and watch people. So I just try and adapt to what’s going on! …I’ve done a little bit of everything. Just trying to stay alive in this industry, I guess you have to!
How were you able to maintain longevity following battles with the record companies over your sound?
Well that was back when I was with A&M Records. I started my career on A&M Records as far as recording career goes and that was back in 1972. I was with a group called L.T.D and at the time we were trying to find our identity. It took a couple of years before we got a ‘hit’. It’s always a battle with the companies, well back then. Now things are a little different today because there aren’t as many record companies to deal with but back then it was always a battle. ..It got to be almost political. You’d almost have to give in because if you went against what [the labels] wanted, then they were as enthused in working your record. So over the years you kind of learn to get everyone together on the same page.
In your career’s discography, there is a significant gap between your latest albums. Why did you take a break?
I don’t think I took a break. I’m always working. I just wasn’t recording music. And this is just the way veteran [recording] artists seem to be treated at the time. [Veteran artists] don’t get a lot of opportunities to record! You see there are a lot of veteran artists that don’t have recording deals. It’s just that simple! It is hard to get a recording deal as a veteran artist. [Labels] would rather take a new artist where [labels] wouldn’t have to spend much money rather than a veteran artist [labels] go in with a budget. Today you could do a hip-hop record for little to no money but with the type of music, we [as veterans] do it takes a budget to go in and get the record done. So basically companies didn’t want to give up that much money to [produce] a record.
Tell me about the new album A Time for Love.
I basically recorded it live with [pianist and producer] George Duke and [bassist] Christian McBride. I also worked with [drummer] John Roberts, [guitarist] Paul Jackson, Jr., [trumpeters] Walt Fowler and Rick Braun, and [saxophonists] Kamasi Washington and Everette Harp.
How did the collaboration with Chaka Khan come to be?
Chaka and I are friends. So when I sought out to do this album I reached out to her to ask if she would like to do a song together and she said yes. Now Chaka actually recommended to do the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. The song has been done so many times in the past and already gives the feel of Christmas but the way we arranged the song it comes off as a fresh piece. I loved working with Chaka.
When can fans see this new material live?
I would love to do a tour performing just this new material but I don’t know if people would just come out to hear just these and not my older music. But I would definitely love to take this on tour. I got to work with my favorite person, George Duke,” says Osborne. Iconic jazz keyboard pioneer, producer, composer, and singer George Duke lost his battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia on August 5, 2013, but his music will live forever. Just recently I finally did a jazz record. I’ve always wanted to do that! I got tied up with companies and they always wanted me to do original material. That’s really my favorite record that I’ve done because I grew up listening to Jazz in my household. Jazz is more my roots than R&B.
Jeffrey Osborne’s latest album A Time For Love features 12 tracks including “The Shadow of Your Smile” featuring Paul Jackson Jr., “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” featuring Chaka Khan, “(They Long to Be) Close to You”, “My One and Only Love” featuring Kamasi Washington, “Smile” featuring George Duke, “Teach Me Tonight” featuring Everette Harp, “When I Fall in Love” featuring Rick Braun, “What a Wonderful World”, “Nature Boy” featuring Walt Fowle, “You Don’t Know What Love Is” featuring Rick Braun, “A Time for Love” featuring Kamasi Washington and is available for purchase via all major e-distributors including Amazon and iTunes.
To purchase tickets to the Mother’s Day Concert on Friday, May 9, 2014 featuring The Whispers & Jeffrey Osborne at Newark Symphony Hall please visit the Newark Symphony Hall Box Office located at 1030 Broad Street in Newark, New Jersey or call 973-643-8014.
All rights to the header photo belong to Earl Gibson III of Wire Image. ©