By Bill Vaughan
After recording albums of jazz standards and soul covers, Jeffrey Osborne is back with his first album of R&B originals in 13 years, “Worth It All” on the Mack Avenue label.
“I haven’t done anything in so long it took a minute to get myself into that creative block,” revealed the former drummer who first emerged on the charts with 1970s group L.T.D. “Then everything started to kick in and I started coming out with these incredible ideas.”
The result is a 12-track soulful opus with guest turns from Gerald Albright and Rick Braun, all produced and written by Osborne with the exception of “Work It,” co-written with his son.
“I thought he was going to give me something youthful and it’s probably more of an R&B song than anything on the record,” he said of 29-year-old Jeffrey Osborne Jr., who also serves as his sound engineer on the road.
Throughout the process, the crooner felt the influence of the late George Duke, his close friend and producer on his many hits including “On The Wings of Love,” “Stay With Me Tonight,” “We’re Going All The Way,” “You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song)” and “Only Human.”
“He allowed and encouraged you to learn,” Osborne said, recalling Duke. “I have to say he’s the first producer I worked with that actually wasn’t intimidated by me vocally. [Instead of just saying that’s good], he would say, ‘OK, well try this. Try that.’”
He knows it may be an uphill battle getting airplay.
“You would think that something that sounded different would be refreshing,” he said. “It’s confusing to be where we’re at as far as music and radio are concerned.”
As for the cultural appropriation debate in music, Osborne said these are crazy times.
“When you look at awards shows, the R&B male vocalist is now [represented by] Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars and whoever, but you don’t see any black male vocalists anymore. That’s frustrating too, because they’re out there. Why are we not even being nominated in our own category? You want to talk about some cultural misappropriation!”
Like his inspirations, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, Osborne prefers performing intimately to the big festival stages he’s known to slay. Unlike his peers, he embraces modern technology and doesn’t mind folks shooting snippets of his shows.
“You’re getting instant feedback,” he said of the rewards. “They’re putting this stuff out on [social media] and people are responding all over the country. Everyone in that audience has their cell phones. I don’t even worry about it anymore.”
The topic turned to Bill Cosby, who was found guilty at the time of our interview. Opined Osborne: “Eighty year-old guy got to go to prison for 30 years? That’s crazy. One of our icons. That’s kind of sad to me. I mean I see Ryan Seacrest. This dude is still on television every day. He got called out. People didn’t want to have him interview them at the Grammys but it didn’t stop his career! Oh well, it’s the world we live in baby.”
Osborne calls himself past the point of really touring.
“You know, I’m 70 years old now,” he said. “I will go out, work weekends (including a July 20 date at L.A.’s Microsoft Theatre), come home for the week and enjoy life with my family. I hate the travel aspect of it. That part is not fun anymore, but I love that hour and a half to two hours on stage. I still love that.”
CAUSE WORTHY: Angela Bassett, Debra Lee, Pauletta Pearson Washington and LaTanya Richardson Jackson will be honored at the 2018 Annual Women of Excellence Scholarship Luncheon on June 2 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
The event also will feature a fashion show with the daughters of P Diddy, Jamie Foxx, Bill Bellamy, Antoine Fuqua and granddaughter of Magic Johnson, emceed by Holly Robinson Peete; with music by Jhené Aiko.
Also attending will be past honorees Tina Knowles Lawson, Manuela Testolini, Cookie Johnson, Linda Johnson Rice, Shaun Robinson and many more.
The LadyLike Foundation’s fund-raiser aids their mission to educate, empower and inspire young girls living in underprivileged communities around the Greater Los Angeles area. Visit www.theladylike.com for details.
CLIPPETTES: Higher! The Psychedelic Soul & Genius of Sly & The Family Stone (1966-1983) featuring free live performances by Bilal, Joi, Kenneth Crouch and surprise special guests is set for June 1 at Grand Performances …
Idris Elba will direct, produce and star as Quasimodo in a modern version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” for Netflix …
Will Downing, Jonathan Butler, Kenny Lattimore, Brian Culbertson and the Commodores are among the acts performing at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach Jazz Festival being held June 1–3 …
Regina King, Don Johnson and Tim Blake Nelson are the first to sign on for the HBO reboot of DC Comics’ “Watchmen” …
Retta, co-star of NBC’s “Good Girls” and previously “Parks and Recreation,” is signing copies of her book, “So Close To Being The Sh*t” on June 5 at the Barnes & Noble on Grove Drive …
Also that night, the principles of Netflix’ “Dear White People” are convening for a screening, panel discussion and Q&A. Details at www.paleycenter.org …
Kevin Hart is scaling down his stadium shows to bring the Irresponsible Tour to the Hollywood Bowl on June 7.
TC ON TV: June 3 – “iHeartRadio Wango Tango” (Freeform): Janelle Monáe, Miguel, Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, Backstreet Boys and more in concert. “Pose” (FX): Ryan Murphy’s new dance musical series is set in 1980s New York and features Broadway vets Billy Porter, Charlayne Woodard and TV’s largest cast of transgender actors. “Unsung” (TV1): Digable Planets “Drop The Mic” (TBS): Michael K. Williams and Trevor Jackson from the new “Superfly” movie get their rap battle on. Then it’s James Corden vs. Dr. Phil.
June 4 – “Five Points” (Facebook Watch): This 10-episode series from Executive Producer Kerry Washington follows South Side Chicago high schoolers who each experience a life-changing event. “Unapologetic with Aisha Tyler” (AMC): The actress/comic hosts this companion show to “Dietland” raising discussions around female-centric issues.
June 7 – “Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger” (Freeform): Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball”) directed the first half of tonight’s two-hour premiere presenting the adventures of a black and white teenage superhero duo played by Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt. Gloria Reuben (“E.T.”) is a regular on the series.
TASTY QUIP: “I started saying in 1985 I don’t think we should have a music talking about n*****s and bitches and hoes. It had no impact. I’ve said it. I’ve repeated it. I still repeat it. To me that’s more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee.” – WYNTON MARSALIS on the podcast “Cape Up”
As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment newspaper columns on the West Coast, serving nearly one million weekly readers. To reach Bill Vaughan, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tastyclips.