Picture the scene: It's 9.30pm on a mild October Wednesday. A hardcore contingent of soul music aficionados are gearing up for a short but satisfying gig from one of the genre's most gifted artists. By 11 o'clock it'll all be over and we'll go our separate ways, content until we meet again. Job done. Now for what really happened. Enter the world of Rahsaan Patterson:
In Rahsaan's world there are no worries about getting up for work in the morning or how to make the long journey home when the subway shuts down. No. In Rahsaan's world, where he is the Pied Piper and we are his followers, time stands still as he guides us through his outstanding collection of finely-crafted material, from his eponymous 1997 debut through to Wines and Spirits, his latest offering. Locked in transcendence for two-and-a-half hours of pure musical ecstasy, Patterson's rapt audience are consumed by the sheer force of his talent. If heaven were a sonic construct this would be it.
Patterson's voice is the central tool in a superior six-piece band that features two fine backing singers and a keyboardist who's notable, not as the lone white guy in the ensemble, but as a brilliant multi-instrumentalist. With undertones of Prince that speak of admiration not imitation, Patterson is an exceptional vocalist who epitomises soul. He simultaneously provides a lesson in artistry for wannabes while raising the bar for his peers.
At a time when it's the norm for artists to race through a set with little regard for their audience, Patterson is an utterly unselfish performer who clearly sees his role as paying his dues to his loyal fan base. And we were certainly repaid in full. Extended renditions of Sure Boy, Don't Run So Fast and the Van Hunt After Hours collaboration The Best were particular peaks in an evening full of highs. This is a man at the top of his game. There's Rahsaan Patterson, then there's everyone else.
At the end of the night I was disappointed to be leaving the Jazz CafÃ©. Forced back out in to the real world, the problem of getting home and being at work in just a few hours brought me back down to earth with a thud.
But I, like the rest of the crowd knew that for a time we were in the presence of greatness, treated to a very special show from a consummate artist who's truly out of this world. I can't wait for Rahsaan to return. "Earth to Planet Patterson... Beam me up Scotty!"
Wines and Spirits is out now on Dome Records in the UK and on Artistry Music in the US
Sylvia Arthur is a music journalist based in London. Visit www.sylviaarthur.co.uk for more info.