FridaysUpdate: Steady Rhythm: Jospe's ensemble draws from inner passion

dsc_8699Inner Rhythm at Fridays will be four guys: Jeff Decker, Bob Hallahan, Randall Pharr, and Robert Jospe– plus vocalist Heather Maxwell, center.

Although Robert Josp© may have first moved to Charlottesville with a particular interest in jazz, his identity as a local musician has since expanded to include his Afro-pop/jazz fusion group, Inner Rhythm. After moving to Charlottesville in the 80s, Josp© started Inner Rhythm in 1992, and he crossed paths with singer and instrumentalist Heather Maxwell several years later while both were teaching in UVA's music department. The combination of Josp©'s jazz and Maxwell's Afro-pop sparked a new direction.

"We had been a jazz, instrumental band for many years," Josp© explains. "Then I met Heather, and we expanded our genre– we were a high-level jazz quintet, but when we added the vocals and dance element, it resonated with the public."

The public performance aspect of Inner Rhythm has been re-ignited with the addition of "world music" to the group's playlist. As a vocalist, Maxwell incorporates a tradition of African dance, according to Josp©, which he says also draws in a variety of audiences, not just jazz aficionados and world beat seekers.

"What I love about her performing style is that she reaches out to the audience, includes the audience, doesn't separate herself as a performer," Josp© says. "She has a funky, dance-oriented, African-influenced style that has incorporated well with the Latin style we had going– it has come together successfully."

In addition, Josp© acknowledges the challenges associated with mainstream presentation of jazz – some audiences might consider it inaccessible or esoteric – and by blending his signature Latin-infused jazz with Maxwell's pop-driven African vocals and dance, he thinks he has broadened the band's appeal. "The timing was perfect to expand," he says.

Inner Rhythm with Heather Maxwell plays Fridays After Five on 5/8. Shades of Blue opens. The show starts at 5:30pm, and as always, admission is free.