Al's Journal

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

Chicago – 2014


I confess I still don’t know what “toddlin’ town” means. People have been singing that song for years, including Frank Sinatra.

100 miles from Milwaukee – I almost think of us as suburbs of each other. Don’t tell Chicagoans I said that. Truth is I really didn’t get to enjoy Chicago until my first record at 35 years of age. I was “getting ready”, so that when I did go I was totin’ my first record, We Got By, and had logged 12 to 14 years standing on stage in front of audiences being a jazz singer in a trio. If I had gone earlier I’d have been an observer of everything that Chicago has…distractions and all. Chicago is, was, and will always be an amazing city. Attractions and distractions to blow your mind. But it does all of this with a lot less flurrying and lose molecules of undirected activity. I love that city more and more each time I go. So it’s been wonderful to have a serious fan base there since We Got By.

This time we redid something quite unusual that we did for the first time 12 years ago with a young jazz lover entrepreneur, Dedry Jones, who developed the idea of ten times a year bringing in some notable musicians to hang out with him and a small audience of people. There’s maybe 400 people in some special setting where they could talk to and rub elbows with the special guest. He always makes time to sit down at a table facing the audience and ask interesting questions about that artist and their career. I wish he could sub divide himself to other franchises in the US.

This time Joe Turano and I did a duet of two songs from the new George Duke Tribute CD (“My Old Friend” and “Brazilian Love Affair”) and “We’re in this Love Together”. And this along with a 90 minute Q/A with the audience and Dedry made for a really fun and unusual event. I can imagine a form of this just being a new and very attractive venue for everybody. No question, this turns out to be great promo for the artist and very valuable for that reason alone. This is a great promo tool, especially in this day where so many artists (even established ones) are losing contact with their audiences because they’re not heard on the radio.

There were people who stood up and asked questions and talked about We Got By and other songs from early album projects. It was so obvious that this format was immensely satisfying. It was like “shaking hands and kissing babies”…really rare and unusual. This makes for a great CD signing opportunity where people line up and meet each other and talk about everything you can imagine, including early listening experiences with Al Jarreau and After All at their wedding.

Thanks you, Dedry. Let’s do it again!

See you in Iowa City…my alma mater.



   - posted ON 09.23.14 AT 12:51 PM

Temecula, CA – 2014

Temecula – 2014

We got in the car and drove from the wonderful Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts to yet another wonderful location and venue, the Thornton Winery.

I’ll summarize what I’ve said any number of times before. Enlightened and smart management in wine makers came to understand 30 years ago that there is an audience of music listeners who like to drink special wines. And they would love to come hear some great music (classical, blues, or jazz) and taste some of their finest products and order some to take home. But for the moment, they come to their special, improvised close-up, warm and friendly, afternoon cheese and wine celebrations and then relax and hear some music. All of these things go together. People who have special taste in wine often have special taste in music, and when you put the two together, you got the winning ticket…and it might be a season ticket.

In one season you might hear David Sanborn, Chris Botti, Diana Krall, BB King, etc. And so close you can see their hearts beat through their jackets and shirts. As the music has changed, especially here in America, venues of this sort become more and more important and take on the role of “patrons of the arts”. That is their amazing, wonderful music is not getting heard too often. There’s some fantastic music that should not be heard at large venues. And when that’s the only thing offered to the public (except for a karaoke room) and Top 40 bands haunt bars and clubs, we are really missing a lot of great stuff. So here’s a winery along with the occasional performing arts center downtown or the jazz festival still hanging in there that continues to offer some really special music to people beyond the “glitz”.

Well I sure do apologize long and loud if I’ve offended anyone. I’m thrilled that there are people who attract listeners in those numbers. It’s the epitome of gift giving that makes smiles and memories and maybe some healing, too.

It’s afternoon, the sun is shining, and we’re sound checking with a matinee audience already there.

At 5’o clock sharp, the sun still shining, I could hear this horn player just jump on the beat…the dance beat.

It’s Vincent Ingala. Well he is amazingly good and talented! He knows how to make them party.

They listened with wide eyes and attention as the music moved from featuring Joe Turano on sax to Chris Walker down front singing his original beautiful ballad to John Calderon playing a breadth of guitar (acoustic too) to Larry accompanying then soloing on keyboards and flute to Mark’s new killin’ drum solo. All of this within the parameters of one evening. They got it! How reassuring.

We leave it at that with everyone laughing and grinning and we head for the CD signing. This is always fun for me…kissing hands and shaking babies…oops :)…like this is so satisfying. You learn things about your connection with your audience that you can’t learn in any other way. And what a great way to end this summer tour.

Love you all,


   - posted ON 09.23.14 AT 12:49 PM

Laguna Beach – Pageant of the Masters – 2014

Festival of the Arts – Pageant of the Masters – Laguna Beach 2014

If you’ve ever been to this Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach you would never mistake it for anything else that resembles a celebration of the arts. For 82 long years, a singular distinguishing feature, this organization of true arts patrons has eventuated their passions into what is now a small fair grounds of exhibits that includes the entire range of visual arts…paintings, sculptures, wood works, etc. This has been going on for 82 years with a staff that is a mixture of permanent employees and volunteers all of whom have a sense of how important and rare this festival is. It happens all summer and has several ballet and orchestra performances all at a very high level of quality and comprised of local talent and performers. This is a true community of the arts.

The festival is full of artworks that resemble the work of Henry Moore and Picasso and all manner of personal touches of art in between. And all of these are the works of local, living, practicing artists here and now on display. The hands and eyes that created this work could well be standing there chatting with you about the materials that went into this collage. This is the thing that distinguishes this collection of art from another. I’ve been to a few art galleries in my time: the Guggenheim in New York City, the Louvre in Paris, the Sistine chapel in Rome, and the Van Gough in Amsterdam. The difference is obvious…and it’s a striking difference as you walk from one little booth to another. You’re looking at the work of living artists continuing to create. And I for one don’t know of anything similar to this anywhere. To my surprise, I found out that there, in fact, is this big thriving community if artists in Laguna Beach…just a short drive from where I lived and worked and recorded for the last 45 years. How did I miss this?

It’s amazing to arrive at the musical performing venue and see a permanent concrete archway with “Festival of the Arts” and “Pageant of the masters” carved into it. We walked through the gates for sound check, mid afternoon, and pow…there we are…right in the middle of it. A stage with booths all around it in walking distance from each other making a semi circle that’s starts on the end of the stage at either side and comes together around 200 feet straight ahead in the back. It’s amazing!

As you may have guessed by now, I’ve been touched and impressed and excited by this whole situation here of this fabulous beach community, both a travel log picturesque as a vacation site but at the same time residential and homey. That’s a great combination. Great timing! I needed this boost. We rode the wave of the Laguna Beach afternoon sun and sea and arts festival and had a really wonderful first time occasion with lots of promises to return.

Ok. Nuff said. The band was wonderful and on fire and we all looked forward to closing out the spring and summer semesters the next night in Temecula. Man o man where does the time go!

See ya…in Temecula,


   - posted ON 09.23.14 AT 12:47 PM

Philadelphia 2014

Hi everybody,

Here’s an amazing little stage perspective visual viewpoint. I’m constantly checking my audience for responses to the music– laughing, dancing, and singing along. At some point, late in the evening, when they have been totally saturated and satiated from a David Sanborn performance…the stage still a smoking rubble :) …I began to see people exiting the venue. Well… IT HAD STARTED TO RAIN AND I DIDN’T KNOW!

So about Philadelphia, in totality, there’s a resounding “yes” – thumbs up – a great day! Driving into town, I can’t help thinking how fantastic it’s been to find myself in several of the great “homecoming” cities for me. Washington DC, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Detroit, and now Philadelphia. This audience was one of the first in America to greet my music with understanding and open arms shouting, “Go ‘head Al, press on!” So when we find little moments to share this idea of “homecoming” and the sustaining of this sort of joyful, peaceful, and uplifting music, there’s a big nodding of heads and lots of “mmhms” and “amens”. And so they get it when I thank them for returning there again tonight…”homecoming”.

We made some changes in songs for this evening as we gradually tried to incorporate more songs from the George Duke tribute album. Speaking of new and exciting, guitarist extraordinaire John Calderon still has his hair standing and on fire continuing to run in one place like a two year old who has just dropped his ice cream. His amp blew out…everything but smoke and fire…seconds before his screaming solo in “Cold Duck”. Well…I’ve never seen that on my stage. Maybe it has happened to John before. So guess what? I looked at Larry; he cranked up his special sound on his keyboard and played that solo like it was his since the beginning. Now here’s the deal…that was so important for a person in the audience to observe. First the glitch and then the improvised repair with a great finish. And finally, if you care to look, a great descriptive moment of some great truths and realities about all of this. This kind of improvised music is one of those great settings that describes its own insides and so much more. The George Duke tribute album additions were lovely and going to be great. By the time we reached our “Roof Garden/Reach for It” medley, these people who had been listening to music since 1pm, including David Sanborn’s “white fire”, were on their feet grooving to the funk and appreciating the connection between me and George and our courageous insistence on revisiting that masterpiece. I think I saw George Clinton smiling out there.

Backstage David Sanborn and I talked about boots strapping and persevering. We both recall one of George Duke’s favorite sayings as we watched the great changes of the industry going on around us…just trying to make a living, man. Anyway, we were glad to see BB Green who’s managed Marcus Miller since she was a baby…a very smart baby. Marcus played in David’s band and produced several of his records so you can imagine the satisfying smiles we grinned.

It’s always a relief when you see your promoter smiling after the concert. Susan almost seemed to be suppressing a giggle and she guided us to a sold out CD signing.

Now that’s a homecoming.

Thank you, Philadelphia!



   - posted ON 08.26.14 AT 11:55 AM

Grammy Museum – New Record Press Event 2014

Sitting here in the car on the way to the airport again with Eric and Sammy and Eric says, “Where the hell did August go?” Well ok, where the hell did the spring go? Oh yea, right. I was in my grocery store last night and school supplies aisle is overloaded with stuff and decorations and candies are announcing the soon to be arriving Halloween. I’m running so fast my ankles are smokin’…oops, did I say that already!

Last night was a fantastic press event at the Grammy Museum in LA for the George Duke Celebration CD, “My Old Friend”. There’s no question that this event announced the beginning of a real serious promo adventure. I’ll be talking to any and every body that’s got a printing press or mimeograph machine about this new record. But we have indeed come to this moment because of some concentrated and intense efforts in the studio everyday except Sunday for four months. Labor of love??? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to sneak away and sheepishly say, “Yo, George, excuse me, I ain’t supposed to be having this much fun with you gone!” Dear dear George, I am rediscovering me through redoing and revisiting those genres and grooves that we both shared and loved.

The Grammy Foundation invited us to make our release party coincide with one of their “Grammy artist meets the people” events. Scott Goldman sat with me and asked questions about the new tribute CD and my career. Then I and the band and Josie James, the original band lead vocalist funkster, sang some George Duke songs from the new album and celebrated this continuing story of heart-healthy happy healing music.

I think we’re all taking a deep breath and exhaling that we’re up the road this far and on the charts already. Hi Alisse! Thank you for coming and for your hard work as part of our promotional publicist group. Congrats! You really found the right work for your personality and spirit. I smile when you walk in.

Yo, John Burke, Mary Hogan (I’m glad I know ya), Chris Dunn, and the entire concord family, I’m loving it!

See y’all in Philadelphia! Hi to Laguna Beach and Temecula. Coming soon!



   - posted ON 08.26.14 AT 11:53 AM

Rio das Ostras Jazz and Blues Festival – 2014

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!



   - posted ON 08.19.14 AT 12:36 PM

Sao Paulo, Brazil – 2014

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!



   - posted ON 08.19.14 AT 12:34 PM

Long Beach Jazz Festival – 2014

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!



   - posted ON 08.18.14 AT 04:13 PM

Trenton, MI 2014

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!



   - posted ON 08.10.14 AT 03:08 PM

Venice, Italy 7/25/14

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…



   - posted ON 07.27.14 AT 01:15 AM