On one of the coldest nights of the year, Washington D.C. native Kenny Lattimore welcomed his hometown crowd to his “living room”, the intimate and cozy Blues Alley. This was Kenny’s debut performance at the venerable home to such artists as Jerry Butler, Nancy Wilson, Phyllis Hyman and many other revered musical giants. How fitting that this booking would come as Kenny tours in support of his fine collection of songs, the appropriately titled “Timeless,” on Verve Records.
“Timeless” features songs written and performed by a diverse collection of artists, from Al Green to Elton John, Otis Redding to Jeff Buckley and Stevie Wonder to Terrence Trent D’arby. This was all a perfect showcase for the complete vocal package that Kenny is. His versatility is undeniable. Sporting a finely tailored suit (was it Boateng?) he had the audience captured, from the sultry soulfulness of “Something” to the tender pleading of “Everybody Here Wants You”, Many audience members were intimately familiar with the CD because they shouted out the track number they wanted to hear. Kenny kindly let them know he would get to them. After his version of “And I Love Her”, he revisited another Beatles song from his second album, the sensual “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
He gave a more up-tempo rendition of his first hit, “Never Too Busy” and gave shout-outs to radio (WHUR) and TV(BET) personalities he spotted in the audience who were supportive at the beginning if his career. Kenny gave us his heart wrenching version of "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know". In the spirit of the season he offered the yearning Joni Mitchell classic “River”.
Kenny was backed by a five piece group out of Long Beach California called Mulatto. These young men, between the ages of 17 and 25 were solid, skillful musicians. While playing “You Are My Starship” I realized none of them were even born when the original song came out, yet they delivered the goods. At one point during the show, after numerous requests shouted from the audience, Kenny began to sing “Well Done” a cappella. One by one, they picked up and played along. On “Undeniably” they were allowed room to solo and guitarist Luke Aiono really made the sparks fly.
Overall Kenny's performance was confident and his rapport with the audience was warm and balanced. He was truly at home in this environment. His encore performance was “For You”, complete with a verse in Spanish, which left the audience fully satisfied.
From the beginning of his career, Kenny always seemed to have more in store than he was presenting on his album releases. He talked about the pitfalls artists encounter as they attempt to find their place in the industry as the record label dictates what they need to do to make a hit record - what to sing , how to look , who to work with, etc. He related how happy he was to be signed to Verve, who allowed him the freedom to make a record that would really represent who he was as an artist at this time in his career. How fortunate for us listeners that he has been given that opportunity as well.
About the Writer
Michael Lewis is a long-time associate at SoulMusic.com. His industry experience includes Sony Music, Motown and La Face Records, and a tenure at HEAR Music. He is grateful to contribute to sustaining the legacy of R&B and soul music.