When Jermaine Purifory auditioned for the eighth season of “American Idol,” all four judges were amazed at the velvety texture of a trained voice that had such incredible range.
Randy Jackson called the Cleveland singer, “The best I’ve heard this whole audition season. It’s my favorite. Dude, I was blown away! I was really impressed.”
The other judges described his voice as “so pure and seamless,” “great” and “honest,” leaving a smiling Simon Cowell to point his pen at Purifory and proclaim, “The chicks will like you!”
Since then Purifory has taken that reputation along with his silky smooth voice to the stage, performing in the Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga’s production of “The Color Purple,” where he played the principal character of Harpo.
He has also captivated audiences at gala events held by 100 Black Men of Bradley County Inc. and the NAACP, as well as numerous social affairs where fans both old and new have come to love the soulful singer.
On Saturday at The Chattanooga Convention Center, Purifory will take the stage with one of the most successful singing groups of the ’90s — After 7. They will perform together at “A Night to Remember,” an annual one-night only, star-studded entertainment event, to raise funds for scholarships, cultural enrichment and intervention programs for youths in Chattanooga’s urban community. The 27th annual gala will also feature award-winning R&B artist Charlie Wilson.
Purifory, whose crowd-pleasing musicality fits perfectly with After 7, said he is excited to perform the vintage soul and urban contemporary style that the superstar group is known for, with smash hits like, “Can’t Stop,” “Ready or Not,” “Heat of the Moment” and “Takin’ My Time.”
“To share the stage with a platinum-selling R&B group like After 7, who have had chart-topping success, can be quite intimidating,” Purifory admits. “But they have become like mentors to me and it is an honor. Kevon Edmonds, (brother of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds) and Keith Mitchell (cousin of Babyface’s longtime partner, L.A. Reid) are both founding members. The other founding member is Melvin Edmonds (Kevon’s brother). Melvin’s son, Jason, has been performing in the place of his dad. That is the spot that I will be filling in.
“I had my first week of rehearsals with the group in the beginning of February. It was intense — learning their choreography and songs — but it was great! They definitely worked me out! Right now it’s all about April 12. I will be joining them for other tour dates in the future as well.”
According to Purifory, it was Greg Tony, a board member of “A Night To Remember,” who recommended him to After 7, having seen Purifory perform at several functions in the Chattanooga area.
“He knows me from singing at various events such as the Chamber of Commerce, 100 Black Men, NAACP, and many more. He was confident enough to tell them about me, which I am grateful for,” Purifory said.
Originally from New Jersey, the soulful crooner came to Cleveland as a child where he attended Mayfield Elementary, E.L. Ross and Cleveland Middle schools, and graduated from Cleveland High before attending Lee University, where he fine-tuned his amazing voice.
“I’ve been singing in church since I was a kid, but I started to take it more seriously at age 16,” Purifory explained. “I then became a member of Voices Of Lee at Lee University under Danny Murray, who taught me how to ultimately take music from just being a hobby to making it a profession. I felt like I really started singing once I became one of his students!”
The confidence he gained at Lee contributed greatly to his trying out for “American Idol,” which gave Purifory a national platform to showcase his voice and herald the fame that is coming his way.
When asked about the artist who influenced his singing the most, Purifory responded, “Stevie Wonder! My dad played Stevie records throughout our childhood and we knew every song. He is such an inspiration. Outside of any other recording artists, my inspiration comes a lot from my mother, who is an amazing singer.”
Purifory said “A Night to Remember” will be an unforgettable evening of people coming together to hear great music by some of the best headliners in the music industry while supporting youths in the community. But for Purifory, having hometown support in his debut performance with After 7 will signify something extra special and personal for the singer.
“It would mean everything to have Cleveland attend because this community has watched me grow up,” he said. “I have so many great teachers and mentors in Cleveland that have helped to cultivate and develop me as a performer.”
The single crooner with a personality as smooth as his voice admits it is difficult to differentiate between the man and his music, explaining, “Singing had always been my escape, since childhood. Whatever I was feeling, I would put it on paper or record it. It touches me to the point that I often feel like the things I cannot put into words through speaking can be interpreted through my music. It’s more than just an expression. Music is not something I do — it’s a part of who I am.”