Ross: The Next Generation
If You Go…
Who: Diana Ross with Special Guest Rhonda Ross
Where: Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Experience, Benedict Music Tent
When: Friday June 24, 8:30 p.m.
How much: $65-$135; three-day pass
It’ll be a family affair in the Benedict Music Tent tonight at Motown legend Diana Ross’s headlining show at the Jazz Aspen June Experience, as her daughter Rhonda opens the show as a special guest.
Rhonda Ross is a singer-songwriter with a genre-melding style. She has blazed her own creative path as an actor and singer — only recently joining her mother on stage for occasional performances.
“I don’t compare my career to her career,” Ross said recently from New York. “I feel content and I will feel successful in my career if I just express myself as an artist. If I am true to that I will feel successful. I’m not here to be the next Diana Ross on any level, whatever that may mean. I’m here to be the first and only Rhonda Ross and to walk that path artistically.”
While her mother built her legend as a genius song interpreter, the younger Ross writes songs about parenthood, spirituality and the universal ups and downs of being human.
“I write songs about life,” she said. “I like to call it grown-folk music.”
She puts the booming voice she inherited to use in personal songs that are based in jazz but that work in funky bass lines, R&B grooves and gospel harmonies to danceable results.
She began her career performing jazz and also acting, most notably in a three-year run on the soap opera “Another World” in the late 1990s. These days she is focused on music and finishing an album or original songs. But her acting experience informs her as a musician.
“To me acting and singing and songwriting are very similar,” she said. “You’re pitting yourself in the mindset of a particular character and you’re telling that story from their perspective.”
While Ross cut her teeth in traditional jazz, she’s grown as a musician and found her voice as a writer — building upon tradition but aiming to make it new rather than reviving the standards of old.
“The people who were creating that music were creating a music that was unique to them and that was new at the time and spoke to the time and the world around them,” she said. “One of the mistakes we make as musicians — and especially jazz musicians — is we start to copy what they were doing 40 and 50 years ago. And it was never about copying. It was always about seeing your truth and speaking to that.”
Though Diana and Rhonda Ross have not previously performed in Aspen, the family has a relationship with the town going back to the 1970s. When the five Ross children were growing up, the family came to ski here most winters. Once they grew up, Rhonda’s sister Tracee worked as a ski instructor here.
“We love it there,” she said.
And while Rhonda is introducing herself and her music to audiences, her mother’s show promises to be a hit parade from her immortal catalogue.
“Her show is an incredible night of memories, Motown and also her newer stuff,” Rhonda said. “It’s 90 minutes of fun, on your feet, you know every song.”
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