After more than 50 years recording R&B hits and racking up many awards, the legendary Patti LaBelle took on a new challenge; crossing over into the jazz genre with her first album in nearly a decade.

The album, Bel Hommage, released in May, is also the debut on her own label GPE Records; and 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.”

While she’s the one paying homage to Jazz greats, the musical icon was honored by the National Museum of African American Music during its fourth annual My Music Matters: A Celebration of Legends Luncheon in Nashville, Tennessee in June. She was 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.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to chat with the living legend to talk about crossing over into the jazz genre for ESSENCE Magazine.

Here’s an excerpt of that interview:

Shameika: What made you decide to tackle jazz music instead of the traditional R&B that we are used to hearing from you?

Patti LaBelle: 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.

 

Shameika: I’m glad you decided to do it! What’s the meaning behind the title of the album Bel Hommage?

Patti LaBelle: It’s a beautiful tribute to artists like Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, and Charlie Horn, and I’m really just paying homage to them. 40 years ago they recorded these songs and some 45 years ago, so for me it’s just about showing my respect for them so that’s why I named the album Bel Hommage.

Shameika: Why do you think it’s so important to give artists and legends their flowers now to thank them for their contributions to the industry? Why are events like NMAAM’s My Music Matters: A Celebration of Legends Luncheon so important?

Patti LaBelle: Like you said, give me my flowers now. When we’re gone we won’t get to enjoy it and won’t know about it, but our families will love it. I think it’s important to recognize those that are alive and able to receive their accolades. I’m glad that they are wanting to show their respect by honoring legends while we are living.

Check out the lyric video to Patti LaBelle’s single “The Jazz in You” here:

Keep up with Patti LaBelle on her website for more information.