Patrice Rushen was never a jazz snob or a jazz purist. The pianist/keyboardist grew up listening to R&B and rock, and even her debut album, Prelusion -- which was the most straight-ahead thing she ever recorded -- used electric instruments. So for Rushen, the fusion orientation of her second album, Before the Dawn, was a logical progression. While 1974's Prelusion was essentially a straight-ahead record with fusion references, 1975's Before the Dawn is essentially a fusion album. This generally excellent LP is more commercial than its predecessor, and Rushen doesn't hesitate to bring R&B, pop, and rock elements to her jazz foundation. Purists weren't crazy about Before the Dawn, but the fact is that most of the material gives Rushen and her sidemen (who include flutist Hubert Laws and guitarist Lee Ritenour) enough room to stretch out and improvise. The only track that doesn't have a jazz artist's sense of spontaneity is the funk tune "What's the Story," which features singer Josie James and is exactly the sort of thing that Rushen herself would be singing when she signed with Elektra in 1978. Everything else on Before the Dawn, however, is instrumental jazz -- although instrumental jazz that's mindful of R&B, pop, and rock. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi

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