Eminent US soulster Rahsan (not pronounced Ra-shaann) Patterson could be forgiven for thinking he is one cursed man whenever his toes touch British shores. His two London dates last year were not his twinkling highlights of 1997, to say the least. The first time around, no equipment arrived until the last minute, and the exhausted chap found he was battling through soundcheck woes when the doors were due to open. At the second gig? No soundcheck at all.

"London was nice," Patterson says good-humouredly on the phone from the US, "but I am upset in myself if I can't give my best." Rahsaan spent a huge chunk of last year on tour consolidating the success of his eponymously titled debut album, which celebrated the literacy of the R&B artform, avoiding the commercial dumbing-down process.

The likes of Rufus, Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder were the spins in his home as a child in New York, and he has carried them in his heart and work ever since. He is wary of the "Nu-Soul" tag which separates the Lil' Kims and Ushers from the Erykah Badus and D'Angelos, but he is unexpectedly forthright about what he sees as the limitations of black music right now. "I don't think it's very healthy really - there's a lot of very close- minded thinking. There's so much hip-hop, Puff Daddy and people who make that kind of music. People who are original don't get a part of the game. The thing about Erykah Badu's album is that most of her tracks are close to a hip-hop feel; the drum sound is in the same groove, so people can make the transition. With a lot of contemporary artists there's too much Gucci and Versace, instead of strings and horns. In LA there are only a few radio stations that support real music, as far as instruments and arrangements go. But the main stations basically play hip-hop, and everybody is copying each other. It's really tiring, so much so it's hard to listen to the radio."

Patterson's impassioned articulation on industry troubles stems from the fact he is a songwriter himself, having written hits for the likes of Brandy and Tevin Campbell. He's penned songs for a few new artists releasing records this year, but mainly he's working on his next album and enjoying life on the road. "At this moment, my focus is mainly music and my love of it, my spirituality and trying not to let the pressures of this world get to me," he says simply. Onwards and upwards.

Jazz Cafe, London NW1 (0171-916 6060) 23 Feb

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