Several projects in works for couple

Expectant parents Lattimore, Moore sing about `Lovers'

January 25, 2003|By Mary Carole McCauley | Mary Carole McCauley,SUN STAFF

When Kenny Lattimore went backstage after watching Chante Moore perform, neither one knew they were at the brink of an abyss.

As they took one tentative step after another into the gaping hole that suddenly appeared in the earth, pebbles skittered away underfoot. They grabbed at tough, deeply rooted shrubs to slow their descent. Their hearts were pounding, and they were short of breath.

Sometimes, love is like that.

At the time of their meeting two years ago, Moore was divorced from actor Kadeem Hardison, had a daughter, Sophia, now 6, and three albums that showcased her five-octave range. Lattimore's career was really beginning to take off; the Washington native was nominated for Grammy and Soul Train awards in 1998 for his single, For You, and won an NAACP Image Award for best new artist.

The day that Kenny Lattimore met Chante Moore, marriage was the farthest thing from their minds. "I was not thinking about it at all," she says. "Of course, I noticed that he's good-looking, but there are a lot of attractive people in our industry. That doesn't mean that we'll be compatible."

They exchanged phone numbers, and thought they'd record a duet together, maybe catch a few flicks, become friends.

"Were there questions?" Lattimore asked. "Yeah, there were questions." For a time, he even tried to talk himself out of falling in love with Moore. He buttonholed all his friends, figuring that surely one of them would shoot this infatuation down, reduce it to a comfortable size.

But Moore's 6-year-old knew better. "Isn't it funny," she would tell her mother (that's the way Sophia always starts her sentences). "Isn't it funny that some day I'm going to marry Kenny?"

Instead, it was her mother who exchanged wedding vows with Lattimore in Jamaica on New Year's Day 2002. Young, talented and hot, they instantly became a new "It" couple. Country music fans have Faith Hill and Tim McGraw; the film world has Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe, or if you prefer, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. Now, R&B has Kenny and Chante. And with the couple expecting a baby - a brother for Sophia is due mid-April - that reinforced their grip on the public imagination.

A duet of their love songs, called Things That Lovers Do will be released around Valentine's Day on Arista Records. A musical theater piece with the same title was created around those songs, and is directed by Tony Award winner George Faison. The show currently is on an eight-city tour. It leaves the Lyric Opera House after tomorrow's matinee performance, but returns March 18-23.

While the musical written by Javon Johnson is based only loosely on the couple's lives, it captures their contrasting personalities. Much of the fun for fans is in wondering which parts of the stage couple mirror the real-life Kenny and Chante.

He is tall and sleek, thoughtful and mild. She is tiny, elfin, fiery. Her nickname as a child was "Talkalot." He patiently waits his chance to wedge in a word or sentence. He is East Coast, and she is West. She was raised in a church slightly more regimented than the one he grew up in.

But they have more important things in common. "Our faith is the same," Moore says. "That's really, really rare in our industry - and very important."

The industry. Lattimore knew from the time he was a child that he was going to be part of it. His mother was an educator at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and from the time he was about 5 years old, she was dragging her oldest boy to hear the Commodores, Lionel Richie, Chaka Khan and the Stylistics.

Young Kenny began practicing what he heard. When he got out of bed in the morning, he would strike poses in his red and blue racing-car pajamas, holding his toothbrush in front of his face like a microphone. Soon, when he was singing to himself in the back of the car, the grown-ups in the front would turn the radio down to listen. At age 10, his mother suggested voice lessons.

He signed with Sony Music in 1995, and his debut album followed the next year.

Chante Moore liked to sing, too. The problem was that no one liked to listen. She was born into a musical family - "chanter" is French for "to sing." Her mother had a beautiful voice, her sister plays the piano, her brother sings and plays percussion. So many people were musical in her family that her father, a Pentecostal minister, formed the Larry Moore Singers.

"I was not allowed to join," Chante says. "I was always off-key. My mother bought me a tape recorder for my 8th birthday and told me to sing into it. She was trying to prove to me that I couldn't sing."

Undeterred, Chante shut herself in her bedroom and sang along to gospel records. Somewhere along the way, she must have learned a few techniques, because at 16, she was cast as Dorothy in a community college production of The Wiz.

After her first performance, Moore says, her mother and sister exclaimed over and over: "I can't believe it. When did you learn how to sing?"

Moore signed with MCA Records, and released her first album in 1992.

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