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Read Your Mind-
The new single from the forthcoming Avant album
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"Don't Say No, Just Say Yes"
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"I gave the new CD this title because it's the closest my fans have been to me on a recording yet," says Avant of PRIVATE ROOM, his third album (and first, on the new Geffen Records). "The other CDs were me, but the new songs are more intimate. PRIVATE ROOM is Avant up close and personal."

If the immediate embrace of "Read Your Mind," the CD's lead single, is any indication, then the singer/songwriter's listeners are loving the close proximity. Upon its release, the dynamic, sexy ballad caught fire at radio out the box, instantly finding an audience. "My fans love my slow grooves," says Avant, "and 'Read Your Mind' is one of those straight up R&B songs about what a man would say to a woman in the club. You don't know who she is, but you know you want her and she wants you. The attitude is sort of an update of Teddy Pendergrass' "Come On And Go With Me," where he's at the party asking the lady to go home with him. Same vibe."

Actually, during PRIVATE ROOM, written and produced mostly by Avant and longtime production partner Steve "Stone" Huff, the artist creates a musical vibe all his own, ingeniously yet effortlessly melding R&B passion with a certain hip hop sensibility to come up with a sound that is contemporary yet timeless.

One minute he is banging the club walls with "You," and exploring the carnal intimacies during the hypnotic, seductive "Phone Sex (That's What's Up)" and provocative, dramatic "Feast" the next. Avant can pull off those tracks, yet deliver the requisite big pop ballad "I Wanna Be" and the swaying, melancholy affirmation, "You Got Me" with equal emotional verve--and then bounce back with the bright and optimistic "Everything About You."

The singer authentically takes it back to the days of classic soul with "Don't Take Your Love Away," a gem of a ballad on which Avant uses a rhythm section. "That track is about any man who has messed things up in his relationship and now he's trying to make things right," he says. "On this one, I'm fighting for every man in America."

On two PRIVATE ROOM tracks--the infectious mid groove "Heaven" and "Have Some Fun," an anthem dedicated to The Good Time built on a whimsical modulation--Avant collaborates with hitmaker Warryn Campbell, who has scored with Luther Vandross, Sisqo, Kelly Price, Brandy and Mary Mary, among others. "It was great working with him," says Avant. "Someone different every now and then helps you to grow, and Warryn is such a talented cat. The clubs are doing to love 'Heaven, 'and 'Have Some Fun' reminds me of Curtis Mayfield with a young thing on it."

The new collection allowed Avant to further refine his craftsmanship as an artist: "I think I got better as a songwriter making this CD. I learned how to put more passion into my lyrics. I also learned more about my singing voice--how to do certain things and just go for it behind the microphone. It's still easy for me. Actually, I've found that my voice is getting stronger."

To be sure, Avant's growth can be heard in the new tracks. However, the young artist has been on the rise ever since he came into the music game. His debut 2000 CD, MY THOUGHTS released through basketball star-turned entrepreneur Magic Johnson's Magic Johnson Music label, featured the hit singles "Separated" and "My First Love" and scored platinum.

MY THOUGHTS' follow up, ECSTASY, featured the singles "Makin' Good Love" and "Don't Say No" and went beyond gold status, selling about 900,000 units- remarkable when you consider that most new acts are never heard from after a first outing. But then, Avant is the real thing, part of a fraternity of young, ambitious artists who, against the current backdrop of video posers and fakes, possesses genuine, ever developing gift.

Avant's respect for the art of classic black music can be traced to his childhood in Cleveland, Ohio, where he sang in the church. A raw, natural talent was refined at the Cleveland School of the Arts before manager Eric Payton helped launch Avant as a professional in 1998 by independently releasing "Separated." Chicago's WGCI jumped on the record and its success eventually led to Avant signing with Magic Johnson Music. The single was re-released and included on Avant's first album, MY THOUGHTS, which met with critical and commercial success.

Avant does not prevail simply in the studio; on stage he prides himself on giving his all. "I truly put on a show, if I must say so myself," he laughs. "You know, when people come to see you they want to be entertained. They want to hear some breakdowns. That's what I give 'em, like back in the day." That Avant recently opened for such legendary acts as the Isley Brothers and Temptations is testament to his ability to captivate audiences of all ages.

And Avant continues to pursue his artistic whims. His recorded collaboration with Cedric the Entertainer will be featured in "Barbershop 2," the big-screen comedy in which he also has a role. "Listen, I want to do it all," he says. "But I will never forsake the music--that is my first love." Obviously. A torrid love affair that has gone public with PRIVATE ROOM.