If you’re one of those retro-soul enthusiasts who spends half your Jazz Fest at the Congo Square stage, the show you’ve been waiting for is hitting the newly re-opened Saenger Theatre this weekend. All four “Men of Soul” headliners—Peabo Bryson, Jeffrey Osborne, Howard Hewett and Freddie Jackson—racked up stacks of hits and represented the silkier side of R&B that flourished in the ‘80s, lighting up “Quiet Storm” radio formats. The suburban rock audiences who were open-minded enough to embrace Prince and Michael Jackson generally passed on these guys entirely, but it was their loss: If you’d played Osborne’s “On the Wings of Love” or Bryson’s “Do It With Feeling” more often, your love life would’ve improved.
Osborne in fact played Congo Square at this year’s Fest and got a strong response, especially since his history is funkier than the rest (He sang for the band L.T.D. before going in a more ballady direction solo). Bryson was the king of romantic duets for a number of years, scoring hits (and maybe even scoring) with Natalie Cole, Melissa Manchester, Roberta Flack, and Regina Belle. Jackson also had a big duet hit, “A Little Bit More” with Melba Moore; and enjoyed an unbroken string of hits between 1985-1992. Titles like “Tasty Love” “Nice & Slow” and “Jam Tonight” should give you a hint of his preferred subject matter. Hewett was originally one-third of Shalamar (along with Jody Watley, who recently hit town for Essence) and sang with jazzmen like George Duke and Joe Sample before 1990’s “Show Me” broke him as a solo artist.
The show begins 7pm on Sunday, September 29 at the Saenger Theater, 1111 Canal St. Tickets are $45-65, information is here.
We couldn’t find any videos of Jeffrey Osborne at Jazz Fest, but here he is with the hit “Love Ballad” a month later at the Capital Jazz Festival in Maryland.