How did Atlantic records find out about you?
Through (jazz pianist) Les McCann, who used to come to Washington DC all the time to play at this jazz club called The Bohemian Caverns, as did Miles Davis and lots of people like Youssef Lateef, Chet Baker and George Shearing. I was, at one point, married to a jazz bassist (Steve Novosel) who had played with Roland Kirk. So all this was happening around the same time. I met Les at the Caverns through the owner and manager, a guy named Tony Taylor, who was one of Bill Cosby’s all-time favourite people. He’s not given enough credit but he really kept jazz going and music like I could do because I didn’t have a big repertoire – but I had enough of a repertoire to perform and he made sure that I got into the Caverns on a night when Les McCann was working at the club but had a night off, like on a Monday night. He invited Les and Les just went crazy. He said “you got to let me do this.” I said “what?” “I want to record you and send you to Atlantic Records,” where he was. I said “okay.” And so that’s how it happened. Les had an album called ‘Les Is More’ and one of the songs that I did from that club date – the club was called Mr Henry’s – is on there: a song called ‘All The Way.’ You hear Les say: “yeah, there’s a great singer.” The guy asks him, how did you find Roberta Flack? And you can hear the whole story there. It takes about 30 seconds but it’s really, really wonderful the way he says it. It’s an honour to be thought of like that.
What was it like working with the late producer, Joel Dorn, on your first four Atlantic albums?
Oh, I miss Joel Dorn. I think about him almost every day. Joel was very special. He was very quiet and very laid-back. I have something on video with him saying: “well, I don’t look at Roberta Flack as a musician. I look at her as a musical Picasso. She paints pictures. That’s the way I look at her and that’s the way I want her to be.” So I think about that a lot because I think that had a lot to do with my still being here and my foundation, which is very tied in with him.
ROBERTA FLACK’S NEW ALBUM ‘LET IT BE, ROBERTA: ROBERTA FLACK SINGS THE BEATLES’ IS OUT NOW ON 429 RECORDS.
For more info go to Roberta’s website: http://www.robertaflack.com/
Read SJF’s review of Roberta’s new album: