From the time she was a young girl, Lalah Hathaway knew it would be all but impossible to follow in the footsteps of her father, the late soul music legend,

Donny Hathaway. And so, with the love of music rampant in her blood, she forged her own path making a name for herself in jazz and R&B.

Now, two successful decades later, and with a recording career boasting five winning album releases, Lalah embraces the Howard Theatre stage tonight like a longtime friend.

Lalah Hathaway
Where: The Howard Theatre, 620 T Street NW
When: 8 p.m. Friday, doors open 6 p.m.
Info: $55 in advance, $60 day of; 202-803-2899;

A trained pianist and vocalist, Hathaway received her degree from the Berklee School of Music, and today her voice and message are as clear and forward-moving as her career since graduation, along with her motto: Be yourself.

Indeed, her 2008 release, "Self Portrait" is a window into her world, one she was confident raising high.

"It is the first record I made front to back myself," she told a reporter shortly after its release. "I was involved in every aspect, from the production to the artwork to the musicians we chose. I had my hand on everything on every level, so the process allowed me to figure out who I am and where I am going as an artist."

In 12 tracks, Lalah took her fans on a trip from heartache and pain to awakening and renewal, in songs titled "Let Go," "On Your Own" and "Naked Truth." This work earned her a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance with midtempo slow jam "That Was Then."

Her current and fifth solo album, "Where It All Begins," finds a seasoned performer, her voice sultry and confident, in cuts such as "Strong Woman" and I'm Coming Back," a remake of a fan favorite.

Lalah Hathaway and her band will entertain the Howard Theatre fans Friday in pure Hathaway style. Even as she honors the legacy of her father, her own creative expression flows from her insight and experience. But that artistic apple never falls far from the tree when she says, "My hope is to make timeless art for people ... in a way, I feel like my dad came here in part so that I could get here -- and I am here so that he can stay here. I was born for this."