LALAH Hathaway's talent lies in the genes she inherited from the famous crooner Donny Hathaway.
Born to the late soul singer and his talented wife Eulauhlah, Lalah came to the attention of soul and jazz fans in 1990 with a self-titled debut offering.
Though it showed potential, it also revealed a budding artist who still needed a lot of polish. She nevertheless blew away many aficionados as a song stylist able to interpret both modern R&B and jazz.
She boasts a true, distinctive vocal talent, with a style somewhat reminiscent of Patti Austin. Her voice is deeper, with a smoky edge. It is no wonder Lalah is at the top of the R&B charts right now.
Listen to her hit, Heaven Knows, and you will be converted for life.
It took her four years to release her sophomore effort, A Moment. It showed her vocal skills but not always with material worthy of her gift.
It did not make an impact and sent her on a sabbatical. At this point her warm, elegant voice graced a number of smooth jazz albums by artists such as Grover Washington, Wayman Tisdale and Gerald Albright.
In 1999 her finest recorded performance, The Song Lives On, was released. It is a duet with pianist extraordinaire Joe Sample.
A true masterpiece, it provided a new look at the old Sample material and a number of standards.
Her vocal interpretations of When Your World Turns Blue, When Your Life Was Low and her father's classic standard, For All We Know, are chilling. The Song Lives On became the best album of that year and an essential disc for lovers of touchy ballads.
While Hathaway was notable as a modern R&B stylist, her capabilities as a jazz singer had developed in an astonishing fashion over the 1990s to a point virtually unmatched among current artists.
South African fans will sample Lalah's unforgettable voice at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, in Cape Town, in the last week of August.