Freda Payne may be best known for her '70s hit "Band of Gold," but her work since then has embraced most aspects of the performing arts: musical theater, film, television (including a stint as a talk show host in 1981 and a recent appearance on American Idol).
"I can't live in one area and play in one box," Payne recently told NUVO. "I like to encompass different things like singing and acting. I am an active person; I do yoga; I like to participate in projects, whether it's for monetary reasons or not. It enhances or keeps me involved in the arts."
And although she's best known as a disco singer, she knows her jazz: Her first record, 1964's After the Lights Go Down and Much More!!!, included several standards ("'Round Midnight," "Out of this World") rendered in soul-jazz fashion. She'll perform time-tested pieces Friday at Madame Walker, in her tribute to Ella Fitzgerald.
"I think songs that were written more than 30 to 40 years ago...seem to have more melody and more inventiveness," Payne said. "You just don't have that quality today...I must say I haven't heard anything I would be interested in doing. That's why I keep grab-bagging and going back to the old tunes."
Payne has a penchant for performing songs that hold particular meaning for her: "I would say that a song has to resonate with the person who's singing it. It has to be a song that fits with the maturity of the person as well as the audience they are appealing to. I chose songs that according to what I think the audience will like and that I will like, also what I think is artistically intelligent. I think a song, in a way you are educating your audience, especially if the audience is not quite in tune with it."
Freda Payne will perform Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m., at the Madame Walker Theater as part of Indy Jazz Fest. For more on Ms. Payne, visit fredapayne.com