How Prince Provoked, Challenged Fans on the ‘One Nite Alone’ Tour
Prince was never beholden to a particular genre in his early days, fusing funk, soul, rock, pop and psychedelia in a style best described by the artist's own name. But he took a more dramatic leap in the early '00s, challenging fans by fully embracing jazz — both in sound and in spirit — on his One Nite Alone... tour and recordings of that era.
Several Prince collaborators detailed their role in that evolution as part of Andrea Swensson's Up All Nite With Prince podcast.
"When you’re established as an artist for one thing, you got to a point where … it’s just not gratifying anymore," said saxophonist-flautist Najee, a member of Prince's horn section during that period. "So you start to look out and stretch for other ideas, and you connect with other musicians and try to feed off of their energy. I think he was at that point. When people ask me about the  Rainbow Children album, I always equate it to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. It was really a departure from what Prince normally did."
The versatile woodwind player noted that the jazz freedom of that LP spilled over into the One Nite Alone... tour. “I always loved when it was just free, when it was just improvisational," he said. "[Prince] would just say ’Najee!’ and I’d go out there and play and that was it. We’d just go for it."
Keyboardist Renato Neto recalled finding an artistic camaraderie with Prince during a three-month period of prep for the tour. "He was very open to bring my input, my influences and the way I played," he said, noting how Prince would have him start off concerts with lengthy piano solos ranging from five to 10 minutes.
"He's not coming to the stage," Neto recalled of that regular live opening. "Everybody was like, you know, 'What's happening with that guy?' And it was great. He was provoking the audience and his fans to be open minded, to listen different music, different stuff, you know — more open, more improvisation, more jazz in some way."
Live engineer Scottie Baldwin looked back on that Prince period as "very exploratory," similar to 1988's Lovesexy. "Rainbow Children and Lovesexy I put in the same [category]," he said. "Except when he did Lovesexy live, he did all the hits with them. This may not have been all the hits, but in a way I think you got a deeper, a more meaningful look into Prince as a person. And I’m really proud of the work we all did collectively in this era, because it speaks about where he was."
Legacy Recordings and the Prince Estate teamed in April 2020 to reissue the material from that period: The Rainbow Children, 2002's One Nite Alone… and live recordings One Nite Alone…Live! and One Nite Alone: The Aftershow…It Ain't Over!