The prodigiously talented composer looks back on an illustrious career.
Patrice Rushen is the type of musician whose skill set can't be neatly summed up in a few sentences. After studying to become a classically trained pianist—work that began while she was barely a toddler—she arranged, performed and composed three albums of jazz fusion for Prestige records in the mid-'70s, all while landing sessions playing with the likes of Donald Byrd and Jean-Luc Ponty. She was already a highly respected arranger, writer and instrumentalist in her scene and one of the few women at the time to not only lead their own band but control the entirety of the creative process. But it was with a five album stint for Elektra Records that she would have the most impact, bringing virtuosic musicianship and songwriting, and now her voice as a singer, to various flavours of disco and R&B.
If you haven't heard her music yourself, you've almost definitely heard it sampled, from countless hip-hop acts to Mary J. Blige and George Michael, and most notably in the Men In Black theme song (calling it a sample is generous—the producers more or less added Will Smith's vocals to a modernised version of her 1982 composition "Forget Me Nots."). Apart from her career as a performing and recording artist, she's also a veteran music director, calling the shots for big budget tours, awards ceremonies and TV shows. She even composes symphonic pieces for orchestras and has a growing portfolio of film soundtracks.
In the wake of a new compilation on Strut Records, Zakia Sewell spoke with Rushen in RA's London office to learn more about her prodigiously multifaceted career.
The RA Exchange is also available on Spotify.