Hello, everyone, and welcome to my page, where I can share with you all the goings on with me, as we travel around and bring the music to the people! Keep Listening!
Love, Al This has a special meaning. The literal translation is “river of the oysters”. Yuck! Ok I know my name is French and I should be eating clams and oysters on the half shell like folks in Paris and New Orleans, but…yuck! I hope you’re laughing with me here. It was delicious in this city. There’s so much to say I don’t know where to begin. I pray it all comes out in bits and pieces along the way here as we continue this journey. Rio das Ostras is a small, out of the way, less traveled and visited, “mom-and-pop shops and restaurant” town barely on the map. Locals love the story of Brigitte Bardot, gorgeous and famous French film starlet of the Hollywood silver screen who apparently came to visit and loved it so much she stayed and would not leave. She came back with so much love for the town that they claim her as one of their own. Every year for two nights tens of thousands of people descend upon this little town with their kids, carriages, motorcycles and mopeds, and have a “resort” experience. And the focal point of it all is a free Jazz and Blues festival. What a brilliant concept. We all know that Brazil is not a rich country. The people from most parts live on the margins and live in thrown together tin and cardboard shacks on the side of the hill called favelas. And they eat feijoada (beans and rice). But they are known for “carnival” — the original good time– and are as warm and romantic and loving as it’s ever been on this planet. And that’s their most important export. It’s in their music and dance. So, give them a chance to hear some good music and have a good time. And that’s what’s happening here. There’s a guitar maker who makes acoustic and classical guitars. Expensive too. And he cannot keep up with the orders and purchases. But the whole phenomenon began with the idea of free music and fun for the people from a guy named Stenio. He convinced local government and local business people that this was a brilliant and magnanimous gesture that would spread such joy and good will with a result that has been a boom for them politically and economically. You still with me? Please hang in there just a little bit longer. Music pulls us like a magnet because it tells about our joys, our loves, our hopes, our sadness’s, our fears, and all the other important human emotions that we feel. Instantaneous kinds of snapshots of our deepest thoughts and notions. People have and always will come to the music. This was a really big outdoor venue but somehow it didn’t seem so big and expansive as 60,000 people would suggest. Somehow the most distant spots seemed not so far away because mostly everyone was standing. The staff here said that there’s always a huge turnout of kids in flip-flops and short shorts. That being the case, what a brilliant opportunity for these millennial’s to hear this other kind of really valuable music. We have four barnburner tunes right out of the starting gate. Folks are happy when we get to something cool like “I will be here for you”. We all take a deep breadth. But not for long because I asked them to sing in Swahili and excite their little minds. Etc, etc, etc. I’ve described many times over the summer the workings of this set. Well this Brazilian audience was seeing it brand new. Joe Turano and Larry decide to make their special duo moment a reach into classic jazz heaven with “Stella by starlight” easing us nonstop right into “Teach Me Tonight”. I know that’s fresh. We needed a longer program, because from time to time I looked up and I’d see someone would hold up a sign with a song request. And I think, “oh yes, they’ve never heard me do that.” I need to be here a lot more often. And so that’s the promise we make to each other again: the audience and I and these promoters. But now, Rio das Ostras is high on the list of extendedly interesting venues. They are not only doing free concerts but have great support for the arts from local businesses. They have a youth orchestra that does 12 concerts a year. I’d love to do a Q/A with them. Now more recently Stenio and his group, because they saw an immediate need, jumped in with a random act of love and helped start up programs to help homeless children. After the show, I hurried back stage with over an hour of well wishes, photos, and signatures, and lots of aching grin. It was wonderful. See you in LA after the official celebration for the new record on Tuesday, August 19th! Love, Al
Rio das Ostras Jazz and Blues Festival – 2014
- posted ON 08.19.14 AT 12:36 PM
This has a special meaning. The literal translation is “river of the oysters”. Yuck! Ok I know my name is French and I should be eating clams and oysters on the half shell like folks in Paris and New Orleans, but…yuck! I hope you’re laughing with me here. It was delicious in this city. There’s so much to say I don’t know where to begin. I pray it all comes out in bits and pieces along the way here as we continue this journey.
Rio das Ostras is a small, out of the way, less traveled and visited, “mom-and-pop shops and restaurant” town barely on the map. Locals love the story of Brigitte Bardot, gorgeous and famous French film starlet of the Hollywood silver screen who apparently came to visit and loved it so much she stayed and would not leave. She came back with so much love for the town that they claim her as one of their own.
Every year for two nights tens of thousands of people descend upon this little town with their kids, carriages, motorcycles and mopeds, and have a “resort” experience. And the focal point of it all is a free Jazz and Blues festival.
What a brilliant concept. We all know that Brazil is not a rich country. The people from most parts live on the margins and live in thrown together tin and cardboard shacks on the side of the hill called favelas. And they eat feijoada (beans and rice). But they are known for “carnival” — the original good time– and are as warm and romantic and loving as it’s ever been on this planet. And that’s their most important export. It’s in their music and dance.
So, give them a chance to hear some good music and have a good time. And that’s what’s happening here. There’s a guitar maker who makes acoustic and classical guitars. Expensive too. And he cannot keep up with the orders and purchases.
But the whole phenomenon began with the idea of free music and fun for the people from a guy named Stenio. He convinced local government and local business people that this was a brilliant and magnanimous gesture that would spread such joy and good will with a result that has been a boom for them politically and economically.
You still with me? Please hang in there just a little bit longer. Music pulls us like a magnet because it tells about our joys, our loves, our hopes, our sadness’s, our fears, and all the other important human emotions that we feel. Instantaneous kinds of snapshots of our deepest thoughts and notions. People have and always will come to the music.
This was a really big outdoor venue but somehow it didn’t seem so big and expansive as 60,000 people would suggest. Somehow the most distant spots seemed not so far away because mostly everyone was standing. The staff here said that there’s always a huge turnout of kids in flip-flops and short shorts. That being the case, what a brilliant opportunity for these millennial’s to hear this other kind of really valuable music.
We have four barnburner tunes right out of the starting gate. Folks are happy when we get to something cool like “I will be here for you”. We all take a deep breadth. But not for long because I asked them to sing in Swahili and excite their little minds. Etc, etc, etc. I’ve described many times over the summer the workings of this set. Well this Brazilian audience was seeing it brand new.
Joe Turano and Larry decide to make their special duo moment a reach into classic jazz heaven with “Stella by starlight” easing us nonstop right into “Teach Me Tonight”. I know that’s fresh. We needed a longer program, because from time to time I looked up and I’d see someone would hold up a sign with a song request. And I think, “oh yes, they’ve never heard me do that.” I need to be here a lot more often. And so that’s the promise we make to each other again: the audience and I and these promoters. But now, Rio das Ostras is high on the list of extendedly interesting venues. They are not only doing free concerts but have great support for the arts from local businesses. They have a youth orchestra that does 12 concerts a year. I’d love to do a Q/A with them. Now more recently Stenio and his group, because they saw an immediate need, jumped in with a random act of love and helped start up programs to help homeless children.
After the show, I hurried back stage with over an hour of well wishes, photos, and signatures, and lots of aching grin. It was wonderful.
See you in LA after the official celebration for the new record on Tuesday, August 19th!
São Paulo, BRAZIL! No way for me to lose. I can’t go wrong. Any return to Brazil is a glorious wish come true moment for me. Ten months ago, when we came here and played Rio di Janiero and Petropolis I surely must have been saying something very much like this. The point is that Brazilian music was life changing for me. It’s as signature in my life as Jazz music is. Pop and R&B? The way I sing these two other kinds of music come from my journey into Brazilian rhythms and syncopations with their subtleties and accents and inflections. I heard that music and began to explore vocal percussion singing that still is an essential part of my musical thumbprint. Somebody will point to that as part of my legacy. Somehow my all-knowing God in this universe has worked it out so that I only had about 6 appearances in Brazil during my entire career. It surely must be that the best is yet to come.
And if our second night in Rio das Ostras is anything like last night, we’re going to make headlines. We came a day early to do press and get a good night sleep. But we were laughing until our sides ached before we could get to the hotel in a two-hour drive from the airport. We arrived at customs to show passports and it was totally empty. No one! We walked right up to the counter. It should have been a zoo like it normally is. I was cracking up.
Ok…tell me what you think of when you think of Brazil. Sunshine and warm, hot beaches and bikinis, right? But this time, we walked out of the airport and the weather is cool like Chicago in mid October. Somebody should be playing college football here. Well I accept. You can have that hot humid stuff…and the bikinis at the beach. This is wonderful.
We had a great day of press and I talked about all of the above dreams and wishes about Brazil. And the next night for the show was even better.
HSBC Brasil is a wonderful venue with rows of tables and chairs with folks facing each other as they sit and listen to music. Of course you can scoot your chair around a bit so that you almost face the stage.
They were close to the stage and closely packed together. This was a party room with people who could listen attentively and do the samba if they felt it. There was all of that tonight.
At every audience that we play to, there are always a lot of new people. But because of all of the things we were just talking about earlier, you would correctly add that in some ways this is an entirely brand new audience. When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, with many albums preceding you that people have listened to but have not have ever seen you perform live, you’re in new territory. Delightfully rare. It’s the beginning of something quite special. That was the tone of the whole evening.
Well the band stayed true to the format and just killed it with sections designed to delight and surprise. Even my pigeon Portuguese was appreciated by these guys. Rodney Holmes, our new drummer since Long Beach and for this Brazil run, gets a special mention for bringing a new spark and fresh sense of listening and interaction with everybody. We all played and sang a little differently. And that’s the sh**! The crowd loved his solo.
Our set list this summer includes the full gamut. Pop stuff, R&B, and jazz. Slow things and funky things. And moments when everybody in the group gets to shine their special light. We finished a new smoky jazz ballad treatment of “teach me tonight” with Joe Turano taking it straight to your old 52nd street jazz club tenor solo. When we added four more big favorites to close out the evening, it had to be surprising for them: “Mais que nada”, “Take Five”, “Spain”, and “Roof/Reach”. They were on their feet and had been that way since “Take Five”. Their response was touching in its sincerity, and thanks for this “dream come true” evening.
I was a little embarrassed and chuckled as I remembered Paul McCartney’s “it’s only rock n roll”. Thanks, band, you knocked it out of the part. Thanks, Junior, for bringing us back just as you promised. After only 9 months…wow! Backstage guests were just adorable. A woman named Victoria came backstage for the autograph on the inside and turned out to be one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life as she mimmed what she “always remembers to do” and took her right hand and slapped the palm across a whole role of kindergarteners telling them to “sit down!” She cracked the whole room up. It was the last thing I expected.
Ok y’all, that’s it. I am happy. The Portuguese word is “felicidade”! I said it all night long and pointed to my chest. Let’s go to Rio das Ostras!
Congratulations and thank you to Al Williams for this wonderful festival that he started 27 years ago. That’s amazing! Normal thinking would wonder why there aren’t a lot more “Long Beach Jazz Festivals” in this community of millions of people who really do love and produce great music for the world. Of course we all shout, “Thank you”, to our local Jazz radio stations for not only announcing this festival but also playing the music for decades, such as 94.7 The Wave and KJLH.
Not many venues like this. Long Beach as a community of businesses and residences and international activity is truly exploding. It’s like 42nd street all the time with the Queen Mary and five-story loading cranes looking on. This is one of the busiest harbors in the world. And don’t forget the enormous blue whale mural painted on the Long Beach Arena. The festival grounds at Rainbow Park Lagoon is neatly tucked into all of this and offers music lovers this other kind of day at the beach right on the pacific ocean.
Today we shared the afternoon and evening with Lalah Hathaway, Daley, Hiroshima, and Will Downing. Wow, that’s a lot to take in in a short 8 hours of music.
Part of me longs for and prays for that good ole intimate club setting with a small compact audience that you touch hands with and rub against as you go on and off stage. And so I deliberately try to create that effect as often as possible in this festival setting.
I can’t wait to shout about Rodney Holmes, our brilliant new drummer who’s stepped in to fill some mighty big shoes of Mark Simmons, who is taking a little family leave of absence. He never missed a beat. He played everything that Mark’s job requires and also brought his own flashes and flares of newness to the audience and the band. I could feel us all kind of suppressing a giggle of delight that we had found him.
When we talk about and sing “Nitakungodea Milele”, the Swahili phrase in “I will be here for you”, there is a magical kind of transformation in these old friends who were transported immediately to 20 years ago when they first heard this unusual little phrase in a song. This was almost the delight of the day for me.
Now, here’s how this multiple acts madness on one stage gets really crazy. For six months we have been planning an hour-long program. We timed the songs, and rearranged them into a list that would make a great listen for the audience and include all of the Jarreau signatures. And right in the middle of the program (the eighth song out of 11) I hear from the side, “We’re late! Hurry!” And we skip over a really important song in the set that I call a refresher like sorbet that makes your ears ready for the next song. So we move on and hope that “We’re in this Love Together” will do what it always does. And it did. They sang real loud and enjoyed their long relationship with this song.
And then it’s, “Yo, Al, stop.” So we skip to “Roof Garden/Reach for It” from the new George Duke Tribute album, and we get offstage just in time.
IT ALL WORKED. The producers had big grins and smiles on their faces as we came off stage. We had a meet and greet with the press and shared some long overdue hugs.
Thank you to everyone for coming out!
There’s a whole bunch of people who will read this and shout, “Amen! Wonderful! That’s great! In Detroit? Fantastic!”
We played a big, free festival of music in Trenton, MI, just outside of Detroit in front of 22,000 happy friends of my music and the LIKE. We were on with 4 local groups, all of them various forms of Jazz expression. This turns out to be the 19th year of this outing and my being here represents a big step for the brilliant local promoter, Alexander Zonjic, in hiring international people. Zonjic represents that innovative, new breed of local promoters who are doing it for the love of this special Jazz based music…not to retire young on huge profits. Excuse me, that’s right out of the first chapter of my biography and life philosophy up to this very moment. Alexander comes out of 15 years of radio and DJing in Detroit and presenting this music on the airwaves and has been one of Detroit’s mainstay pillars of this form. He happily lets me thank Rosetta Hines (another radio mentor since the “We’ve Got By” days) every time.
You would love Elizabeth Park Marina, the longtime home of this festival, with the back of the stage right on the Detroit river and the audience on a gently sloping hill going away from the stage. There was an amazing sea of people on both sides of the stage that was most impressive when seen from where I was singing.
This audience and I were so glad to see each other because we have been old friends for many years but have lost touch with each other. I miss Pine Knob, the Fox Theater, and other local venues where we used to meet. So this certainly was ole homecoming week with Al J, one of their “hometown boys”, to go out into the world and do his thing. They bought records and called the radio station and tonight we celebrated all of that history and a new record project celebrating George Duke. As I think about it and say it now, that made for quite a wonderful occasion. And you should have seen them dance and cheer at the end when we broke into our recorded version of “Roof Garden/Reach for It”.
There were so many hugs for the band and me during that period that I just described that I kept saying over and over how my grin hurt. And I was personally tickled inside that my niece, Karla, and her family, Cliff, Danielle, and Stephen, were there for this wonderful outdoor party. It is so different than any other concert I have seen in a theater or auditorium. Alexander Zonjic and I kept patting each other on the back and shaking hands and babbling about how this hugely successful event and its series represents the new millennium promoter approach. Alexander said he calls himself an artistic director with the goal being to keep this music happening and not let it disappear for these thousands of people who are hungry and thirsty for it. He says he almost backed into all of this by developing a venue for him to continue to play flute with his local band along with other local musicians.
I’m going to bring this entry to a close, now, and turn this last paragraph into a “Post It” note for my mirror. I don’t want to forget this. My dearest Detroit friends and family, I can’t thank you enough! You are still here for me.
God Bless You! See you soon!
High-larious! There is no other way to describe the twists and turns of life that can have you rolling on the floor in sidesplitting laughter if you allow yourself. I’ll get to the performance in a minute :). All my life I’ve dreamed of Venice and a romantic gondola ride with the love of my life by my side and “O Sole Mio”. Maybe it’s just not supposed to be. This is in fact my first time in Venice and instead of the above, here I sit in what must be the smallest hotel room that I’ve ever been in and it’s drizzling rain out on the patio.
Well I hope you can tell that I just love this wonderful little joke on me. It’s a warm summer rain and in fact, right here in front of me is truly romantic Italy.
We played in a shopping mall last night and for my joys and tastes, it was the highlight of the tour. Could you imagine? Totally unexpected…a shopping mall. Thank you to our promoters, Roberta and Fabio. I was stunned when I walked onto this stage with seven or eight shops that made up the back wall of this extraordinary and unusual theater performance space. There were neon lights glaring…and yes; there was a McDonald’s. But in that space there were close to 1,000 people. Immediately in front of me were plastic tables and chairs in this atrium where shoppers moved with packages and refreshments from one store to another, but tonight more than a thousand of them had gathered there on purpose to here Al Jarreau—or was it to buy shoes and Al Jarreau will be here too?? The point is that here in a mall people gathered as if it was a typical concert space.
I had to stop and deliberately comment on the genius of this music setting. Nave de Vero, which means ship of glass in Italian, is the name of the mall and this special series called Nave de Vero Jazz also brought on Take 6 and Chiara Civello weeks before. This event brings the music to the people where they live, shop, and tweet. An improvised setting like this takes all of the tension out of the air and promotes a looseness that sparks great performances…we had one. We do stuff that “funkifies” and pounds away with inescapable and undeniable rhythms. But when Joe Turano can walk forward with his sax and hypnotize with the introduction to a ballad like “Teach Me Tonight” and I observe them feeling the subtleties of the song, something magical has happened to a place that can be like Grand Central Station.
When we bowed down front, they stood up and shouted, “Grande!” and stayed standing until we returned with encores. And sure enough, the funk did not disappoint. But not until we surprised them with my version of Elton John’s, “Your Song”, a big favorite in Italy.
200 people found their way to the backstage area and were yelling and screaming when we came down the stairs.
So I put on my jacket, took a deep breath, and looked at Sammy who had the bags already packed and said, “We did it…great tour…let’s go home.”
Until next time…
Pescara, Italy 2014
Italy! This is the oldest western history of the planet. You can go to Asia and Africa and find older civilizations but Rome and it’s environment and traditions are the cradle of all of our learning and culture of Europe and much of the Americas and its territories. And in some way B.B. King’s Blues and Bruce Springsteen’s Rock ‘n’ Roll contains concepts, melodies, and expressions that are part of an evolving cultural blossoming that began alongside a river in Rome.
Italy. It’s gorgeous to see and smell and feel in the warm spirit of the people. We just did Umbria Jazz Festival and now we’re on a bus the day after the Pescara Jazz Festival driving to Venice. This countryside is as green and lush as Tennessee or Ireland. And today we will be driving for 4 hours along the beautiful Adriatic coastline. As I look out my window, it seems to be a mile away with an incredible dividing line of dark blue water above to pale green water below as the sea approaches the land. I’ve never seen that so apparent before. And there are acres of sunflowers as far as the eye can see! It reminds me of Marciac, France.
My last time here was at least 12 years ago but that was one of the many times that I have played here. Their welcome was loud and warm and as we moved through our program of old and new, loud and soft, they seemed receptive to this journey. If you’re not careful to insist on reaching into the new writings and recordings, you could get wonderfully stuck in simply playing the hits from the past. This can be a great journey of repertoire design.
I talked about a photo that the promoter showed me from 1985 of the two of us. He said I commented at a press conference that this festival is being watched over and blessed by Bill Evans, a patron saint who played the very first festival in 1969.
My sister, Rose, says, “You’re a very lucky man, Al Jarreau.” From 4th and Reservoir in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I NEVER forget that everyday is Thanksgiving.
The lights were in my eyes so I couldn’t see the audience, but I wanted to see them. I also wanted them to see each other and deliberately join my in celebrating this little reunion. 12 years is a long time and 1985 is last century but here we are preserving and hanging on to this special music and its message. When beautiful, young singer, Simona Molinari from Napoli, wearing a long, white evening gown clinging to her Milano fashion show frame, takes my arm, the night takes on another sparkle and significance. At this point in her career, she has decided that she must sing the standards and established herself as a solid young jazz singer who knows the roots. Everybody sits back down with a grin of expectation as she soars into the opening lines of Gershwin’s “summertime”. WELL SSHUT DA FRONT DOOR! It’s a total surprise for the audience and we shared the torch in rhythm.
Hard to say much more after that, but it’s time to get up and party, y’all! There were so many people hoping for this “magic – hipbone” moment. They came down the side aisles and sang and danced.
We’ve lost the sea on this drive to Venice, but still riding in the afternoon sunshine with sunflowers and olive trees. Excited for the final show of this European tour. I can’t believe it’s all come to an end in one short month…but my laundry bag would say otherwise.
See you in Venice!
This is cool. Well it’s better than that. It’s Monday afternoon and the troops and I are on a bus riding from Perugia to Pescara. The drive’s about four hours and it’s raining good with the windshield wipers waving and I love it. It’s the Italian countryside today, but this rolling through of almost any countryside can set you free. I look forward to it, and if it’s a little drizzly rain, all the better for atmosphere.
Umbria Jazz is a 10-day annual Jazz Festival—now 30 years old—held in Perugia, Italy. Old Italy! 160,000 people live in the city in a valley with Roman ruins and roads that slowly and lazily ascend to the festival town and what must have been castles where centurions stood watch. This is right out of a renaissance fair. Everything here is about the Jazz festival and people have come from every corner of this region. It’s like the 4th of July…almost hot dogs and cotton candy!
I slept real hard and so I’m up early because we have a long day and I find myself taking a good look around and diving into my gratitude list. Oh yeah, for my life, for my wife, for my son, my work is fun, and, oh yes, that little heart flutter that made me make some serious changes in my life. People do this work real good in a bar with an out-of-tune upright piano and spilled beer on the floor. I’m a lucky so-and-so.
And guess what, about me all the way over here. Take 6 was with me last night. Oh Yea! You should have seen the hugging and jumping up and down and outright rejoicing at seeing each other and just about to share the stage. It’s hard to describe. I love these guys since the middle 80s when they were students at 7th Day Adventist denominational school in Huntsville, AL (Oakwood College) where they had made a demonstration tape under the name of Alliance. When I mentioned that last night, they shouted. They are the height and breadth of ensemble vocal singing using the most sophisticated and Avant-garde chord structures in the Count Bassi-ish sound and tradition. Now quickly add that they have several individual voices that have stretched their “traditional roots” to adding R&B gospel vocal runs that push Stevie and Aretha to the limit. This is an amazing extra. I wish I could do that. They claim me as an influence, but I can’t do that!
I feel conspicuous in this moment here because there is so much more important stuff to say about this amazing connection with “The Six”. Right now, let’s stay with this wonderful at the Umbria Jazz Festival.
I have to think that it was on purpose that the promoters made this a “voices” day. Mario Biondi is also on the bill. Sammy says we should call him “Italian Thunder”. He has this big Barry White kind of voice that rarely gets any attention in contemporary pop R&B music. He can bring it. So yes, this is a singer’s day and it’s probably just as well that they didn’t announce it that way. They simply listed us in succession on their calendar. But to be sure these people heard some sangin’.
Mario’s approach really touched me. Quite jazzy with a great band and good soloists. We hit it at 9:00pm and took it to ‘em…old familiar things and new ballads and Brazilian syncopations and some George Duke/Al Jarreau funky dance. And you should have seen their eyes when Mario strolled onto stage and sang “Teach Me Tonight” with me…of all things. Some 25-year-old youngsters scampered down front to move, groove, and dance and pressed against the metal fence of the stage. I think I shouted, “Finally!!” That was a great way to end the night. Lots of notions satisfied (including an almost “Caruso”).
Thank you to Carlo and Alberto for a wonderful night in central Italy. Can’t wait to come back again!
PS: Still driving in the rain!
“Lisbon was way cool! I had so much fun! I can’t wait to come back!” Sometimes that really does just cover it.
Lisbon by the sea. I’m not kidding you guys. San Francisco could take some lessons from Lisbon about how to be a beautiful city on the ocean. It’s cozy and warm with parks and greenery and the building code that does not crowd the beautiful, old city’s main structures with steel and glass. The pink stucco warms the heart. We saw and felt some of this on the way to the radio station, chatting about their smooth formula with live DJ’s and grown-up’s music that included some important references the great George Duke and his amazing gift to this century.
There are three tiers of balconies in this performing arts center and its size rivaled many opera houses with huge backstage areas for scenery. It was so satisfying to ask for house lights and look out at this wonderfully big Portuguese audience that I don’t see very often. They were smiling and happy. And so were we. I could touch the front row and there were some men and women who had this night on their calendar for a long time and they had come to hang out with a household favorite. It’s great to get that sense of things from the stage.
They shouted titles in Portuguese and I sang right back to them in their native tongue. Some people were almost squirming and squealing. “Would you just look at this black guy singing like he grew up in Lisbon?” And guess what, all of this is part of my personal dream works…dreaming to do music all over the world. I’m so grateful for this.
Now Sammy (my new assistant) and I kind of enjoy the long walk back to the dressing room, breathing deeply, pausing, and smiling back at each other, nodding our heads up and down. We did ok.
It’s time to eat some dinner and chill.
Can’t wait for these next few shows in Italy.
Until next time…
Spain and Portugal form the Iberian Peninsula together. They share a border hardly distinguishable from one another…don’t say that I said that ☺ I’ll never be able to return. Just off of their western coast is a group of tiny islands called the Canary Islands. They tend to be wonderful tourist destinations so you know the scenery will be amazing. We did two nights of the festival down here. The first one was in Tenerife and the next was in Las Palmas. It’s always great to locations where the local press requests a press conference. And so we did it the day before in the hotel. The journalists asked some good questions and it gave us the chance to talk about a lot of things, including my marathon career and recent events, such as my ten records in the last 15 years—the newest being the George Duke Tribute album “My Old Friend”. The album was just released in Europe on July 5th and will be in America on August 5th.
The hands of a man or a woman and a string instrument like guitar go a long way back in human history and would surly include Africa and Asia with an increasingly important bond between such hands and instrument producing virtuoso performances. But nowhere in history has there been what we must call a modern day explosion of this guitar and human hands relationship like there has been in Spanish classical guitar/flamenco. This driving force brought us everybody from Paco DeLucia to John McLaughlin to George Benson. Those influences somehow found their way to Brazil music and changed my life. AND that life-changing explosion came when I left the Jazz trio rhythm section format back in 1968 and worked with only an acoustic guitar player—Julio Martinez.
Lots of wide-eyed interests here.
To the next question I answered a resounding, “No, absolutely, not! I’m ten years too late with this George Duke Tribute.” More wide eyes. We played in their classical venue, which looks very similar to the iconic Sydney Shell Opera House in Australia. We had a wonderful and enthusiastic welcome with bright faces and people who I haven’t seen in 12 years. I know that our new program, just as we had planned it, has lots of familiar ring to it. But we’ve really opened the door to some new ideas and approaches that certainly must be fresh for them as listeners because it is for us. And so by the time we had delivered almost an hour and a half of mixed media music and surely must be finished, we returned with Chick (Armando) Corea’s “Spain” and then “Roof Garden/Reach For It” Medley from the record. Oh yes, they were on their feet and doin’ the scootcha bootie. We left feeling happy and fulfilled, and looking forward to a short flight to Las Palmas for the second night of the festival.
And what a great night it was. I’m going to ditto that above description for Las Palmas. It almost works. This hall was another classical music venue, and the first row the audience was touchable from stage. What an amazing difference in communication, energy, and flow this inevitably makes. Yesterday we all looked at each other and remarked about how the new transitions really do seem to be working and providing a seamless continuousness to evening’s music. Especially Larry and Joe Turano and Mark Simmons have become joined at the hip, and we really felt it here in Las Palmas….
“I Will Be Here For You” (Nita-koo, etc) has never ever found such complete and full expression as we’ve come to these days simply because of a captivating guitar-bass rhythm vamp that Joe Turano came up with. You really could listen to it all day long played over and over. That’s where I invite them to sing in Swahili.
And ditto again is the wonderful free form stroll through a 2am moonlit park, quietly playing your horn. Then with a quick trilly flash, you drop into the pulsating introduction for “Teach Me Tonight”. A song has been reborn.
Spain will probably remain a bit formal and shy and hesitant (except for flamenco, bullfighting, and the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria ☺). And so we had to coax them out of their seats for a little hipbone action in “Roof Garden/Reach For It”. They looked around at each other and saw that it was ok to “express yourself” with a little funky dancin’ right there at your seat and a good time was had by everybody.
Our local promoter smiled a lot and the next morning talked about the Canary Islands as a dream location for International Jazz Day. “We got 23 years now a Jazz festival.” That certainly makes them an important outpost for the continuing saga of “sacred” music, including jazz.
Again, thank you, Grand Canaries, Amparo, Miguel, and Miguel’s wife and son! It was an amazing two days here in the Canaries!
Sunday morning. It’s the day after the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam and we’re driving to the airport. I’m thinking that I ought to be on my way to church to give thanks. And so I am! In my heart! It’s a little bit grey and cloudy, certainly not summery as it often is up here by the cold North Sea. Very often the winter seems to linger into summer and that’s why the residents will also be on this plane to Spain like we are. But oh, my friend, it was hot in the main hall last night. Easily 15,000 people back-to-back and belly-to-belly. If you want to sit, you’ll be consigned to a bleacher section way out back. North Sea Jazz Festival is like a contemporary Woodstock Event. And all about Jazz. Amazing! It’s more than a half-mile square of booths and performance venues where on any one night of four at this festival you could catch Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, or George Benson. At night, the contemporary neon lighting on the sides of main venues with the festival rival with sections of Times Square. This is the largest Jazz Festival in the world and has been since the days of Den Haag. I’m like, “Go ahead! Go for it! Get garish for Jazz!” Some of the performers are youthful and strongly influenced by contemporary hip/hop and rock music but courageously mixing in their own fresh jazz concepts. This has always been one of the ten commandments of jazz. Be yourself in today’s world. Know your horn and improvise.
Back-to-back, belly-to-belly as far as you could see and all teenagers…or so it seemed to me. The average age of the people that I saw was under 25. And they got their “jump up and down” booming groove on. We went to the venue at least 2 and half hours before. Alain Clark hit their spark and you could hear them singing and screaming chorus that they knew. He’s one of the hot new kids on the block that will surely remember this day in his young life. A kick in the ass!
You take a deep breath and roll right through eleven songs in 60 minutes. Three of them were ballads, but power ballads so to speak. The audience stayed with us and sang on choruses and waved their hands back and forth. There was no sound check and I know all of us on stage struggled to hear one another, but this is where that combination of talent, devotion, experience, and being “tight” carries the day. It was on! We were on! Chris and Joe came with beautiful breaths of fresh air, John and Larry flashed like rockers, and Mark was a rock.
This will always be one of those “big event” type gigs, like I mentioned a couple of pages ago. The eyes and ears of the world are watching! And if it’s good, it’s great. Lots of smiles and hugs all around. But believe me, it came and went in a flash…details are blurry…missing time! But the audience was grinnin’!
I got to spend a few precious moments with Stevie before his set. He was remarkably relaxed, cool, and warm with well wishes and congrats across the board and across the years. I gave him a hug with my LOVE and hurried off to catch up with some Netherlands family folk, Monique, Monic, and Herbert. All in all, it was a wonderful night that I will always remember.
Until next time…