Conquering fears and taking chances is something that living legend and empress of sweet potato pies, Patti LaBelle has learned to embrace with the release of her newest project, Bel Hommage.
The thirteen-track album pays tribute to jazz legends she's always loved. “It’s a beautiful tribute to artists like Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Shirley Horn and many others. I’m paying homage to them,” LaBelle told ESSENCE.
After more than 50 years in the game, recording R&B songs that have laid down the soundtrack to many of our lives, LaBelle decided to take a chance and dive into the jazz genre; but not without some convincing.
“This is a ten-year wait for something that I thought I might have wanted to do. My ex-husband [Armstead Edwards] came up with this idea of doing a jazz album and talked me into it. So I finally went to the studio to record songs that I love from Shirley Horn, Gloria Lynne, to James Moody, and some other songs that I loved from back in the day. I thought I could never attack them and give them the love they need like the way I do my R&B,” LaBelle recalled.
“After doing this project, I fell in love with it, so I love it now! You know how you’re not used to doing stuff because you think, ‘suppose I fail?’ Well, I took that chance and feel great about it now."
The album, which is also the debut on her own label GPE Records; features standards such as “The Jazz in You,” “Moanin’,” “Peel me a Grape,” “Moody’s Mood for Love” featuring KEM, and “Here’s to Life.”
LaBelle is no stranger to taking chances; at 73-year-old says she has learned to push fear aside to do many things including taking a spin on the dance floor on Dancing with the Stars in 2015.
“A friend used to tell me, you don’t stop dancing just because you get old, you get old because you stop dancing. 70-year-old women are not washed up, they can still move. So a lot of people told me that watching me on Dancing with the Stars encouraged them to take chances,” she explained.
While she’s the one paying homage to jazz greats, the musical icon is kicking off Black Music Month by being honored by the National Museum of African American Music during its fourth annual My Music Matters: A Celebration of Legends Luncheon in Nashville, Tennessee on June 1.
LeBelle will be honored alongside Kirk Franklin, Teddy Riley, and David Porter for their contributions to the music industry. Ms Patti doesn’t take being recognized for her achievements lightly.
“I’m very honored, I always hope that when someone gives me an award or something that I can live up to it. At 73, I am blessed to still have someone that wants to still give me something. It’s such an honor,” LaBelle said.
As an entrepreneur, LaBelle recently issued her fourth cookbook, and sixth overall, in late April, Desserts LaBelle, which focuses on some of her favorite recipes for cookies, cakes, and of course 'Patti Pies'! She’s also whipping up new items for the Patti’s Good Life food line carried in Walmart stores. And her Cooking Channel show, Patti LaBelle’s Place returns later this year for a third season.
And she's taking it all in with stride. “I have a lot more life to live," she said. "I want to do more special and meaningful things.”
Keep up with Patti LaBelle on her website for more information.