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 Carmel, Indiana We’re doing the unthinkable and almost undoable for this show. Sometimes the schedule calls for this. We left Iowa City at 7:30 in the morning after three hours of sleep, which was preceded by the above description of my alma mater event. Then we drove six hours straight to the venue and did a sound check…everybody’s dragging. But this is where you reach deep for your marathon skills, attitude, and extra power. We even sing a little rehearsal with Chris in the car and decide and determine that this is perfect. You couldn’t be happier. Carmel is a suburb of Indianapolis that’s new and fresh with the neat and clean sparkle of all the great new industrial parks. Ellen, the hall manager, greeted us with such enthusiasm and happiness and joy of this life occasion that it acted almost like a wave. All smiles and bubbling energy about the new performing arts center called The Palladium. When we got inside we understood why. She was right. Somebody really reached deep in concept and construction. This place was like a new version of a classical orchestral and opera venue. There were three balconies that wrapped around to your 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. Before I went on stage, I shook hands and laughed with some audience members in one of these balconies. And there was a wrap around balcony behind us. When I turned my back to the audience, there was more audience. That’s fantastic! Only in Europe! This makes everyone interact differently than they would in 99% of performing situations. They sensed it and we sensed it. Right now I’m thinking about that moment when John Calderon takes the spotlight and plays classical music on his acoustic guitar. Ellen said that this room was acoustically perfect. I deliberately try to make some special memories by coming through the stage door early and quietly standing and smiling and chatting with people in the lower balcony who were almost on stage. What a design! Chris sounded wonderful here on his solo ballad and we could both reach down and touch people in the first row when we did our “Random Act of Love” duet. I wish I could have gotten to that opposite wing that was almost on stage just behind Larry to spend a moment or two enjoying and helping to show this exceptional venue. What an amazing venue, what an amazing night! All just outside Indianapolis with lots of brand new listeners. We signed a ton of CDs after the concert and laughed, squealed, hugged, and kissed. Great stuff, y’all. Thank you very much! Love, Al
Carmel, Indiana – 2014
- posted ON 10.6.14 AT 05:43 PM
We’re doing the unthinkable and almost undoable for this show. Sometimes the schedule calls for this. We left Iowa City at 7:30 in the morning after three hours of sleep, which was preceded by the above description of my alma mater event. Then we drove six hours straight to the venue and did a sound check…everybody’s dragging. But this is where you reach deep for your marathon skills, attitude, and extra power. We even sing a little rehearsal with Chris in the car and decide and determine that this is perfect. You couldn’t be happier.
Carmel is a suburb of Indianapolis that’s new and fresh with the neat and clean sparkle of all the great new industrial parks. Ellen, the hall manager, greeted us with such enthusiasm and happiness and joy of this life occasion that it acted almost like a wave. All smiles and bubbling energy about the new performing arts center called The Palladium. When we got inside we understood why. She was right. Somebody really reached deep in concept and construction. This place was like a new version of a classical orchestral and opera venue. There were three balconies that wrapped around to your 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. Before I went on stage, I shook hands and laughed with some audience members in one of these balconies. And there was a wrap around balcony behind us. When I turned my back to the audience, there was more audience. That’s fantastic! Only in Europe! This makes everyone interact differently than they would in 99% of performing situations. They sensed it and we sensed it. Right now I’m thinking about that moment when John Calderon takes the spotlight and plays classical music on his acoustic guitar. Ellen said that this room was acoustically perfect.
I deliberately try to make some special memories by coming through the stage door early and quietly standing and smiling and chatting with people in the lower balcony who were almost on stage. What a design!
Chris sounded wonderful here on his solo ballad and we could both reach down and touch people in the first row when we did our “Random Act of Love” duet. I wish I could have gotten to that opposite wing that was almost on stage just behind Larry to spend a moment or two enjoying and helping to show this exceptional venue.
What an amazing venue, what an amazing night! All just outside Indianapolis with lots of brand new listeners. We signed a ton of CDs after the concert and laughed, squealed, hugged, and kissed. Great stuff, y’all. Thank you very much!
Iowa City – 2014
This commentary begins one of the most wonderful and amazing concert events that I’ve ever had in my life. So many things have come to confluence here that even “big mouth” Al Jarreau will have a hard time explaining in these next paragraphs the wonder and awe and magic of it all. This is rare.
It’s about HOMECOMING.
I pray you understand the sweetness of that. If you do than you’re with me. Only Milwaukee and Ripon, Wisconsin can compare to this flood of emotions. I studied rehabilitation counseling here at the University of Iowa…ready to work as I eventually would in 1965 in San Francisco (the beginning of the Al and George Duke days at the Half Note). While I was here I buried my head in books and stacks at the library and sang two nights a week at the Tender Trap in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That is, I was anything but a “man about campus”. In fact, as we moved about town on this trip, I mentioned to our driver that because of this restricted resistance and all of the new building on campus and in town, I almost didn’t recognize anything. I could not find Clinton St! And when we finally passed it, I can still here me saying, “Oh wow, there it is! And that’s where those two brothers had a shoe repair and shoe shine business.”
So rare…we spent two days here and it was crammed full of campus activities all centered about a returning alumnus with some celebrity in his life. Wow! They were proud of me. This is Iowa, not Los Angeles on the campus of UCLA around the corner from Hollywood. This is not NYU or Berklee in New York City just around the corner from Broadway and every record company in the world, or even New Orleans with several universities there that graduated dozens of people with big careers in music. No, this is Iowa, with small towns and sweet and gentle hardworking folk who still wonder about all the world’s eyes being on them and their Iowa Caucus.
On the day before the concert we met with some music students at the University in the education department (my old home) and had a wonderful discussion and Q/A about music. I found my head buzzing and worrying with urgency to do this more often. I was amazed and struck with the positive conclusions they had come to about the existing state of affairs in the world of music. While on the other hand, I am and many like me are constantly bemoaning the loss of this and that aspect of the industry. These young and bright-eyed people are accepting it as it is and celebrating this new technology, including social networking, and use it to begin a new venture and career in music. It made me check myself and say, “Wake up, Al.” As I sit here talking about it, I’m pining for more with that particular group of kids and for more similar situations.
What else? Three weeks ago I did a phone interview with Ben Kieffer of Iowa Public Radio. Now that’s good stuff. We had a great chat about all the particulars you can imagine (especially my career and the George Duke record). While in Iowa City, Ben and I sat with about 100 faculty, students, and local residents and basically did another version of his radio interview and opened the whole business up with questions from the audience for the majority of the time.
There she was. Since the time this date appeared on my calendar, I had been thinking about beautiful Byford Wheeler from Milwaukee with two sisters, Neesha and Joan, who at that time lived one and a half blocks from my house where I spent my childhood. Sister Joan often escorted me to kindergarten and first grade…wow. Beautiful Byford was now faculty alum with tenure. 12 years ago, she proudly welcomed me to my first homecoming and performance on campus at Hancher Auditorium. She said she would be there. My mind is still reeling.
After the lovely discussion we went downstairs for a quick reception with all the guests. I had to leave quickly to do a short interview with an on-campus radio station before finally ending the day. Are you huffin’ and puffin’ yet??? Let’s go sit with Byford Wheeler in the lobby bar and talk about “old times” for a while.
The African American faculty invited me to hang out with them at a quick meet and greet before the concert. It was short but powerful as it always is when people remind you of your important place in their lives. This gets heightened significance for me because of this particular community of people. I love schools and educators and teachers because I am certain they are the right hand of God like doctors and other healers.
So bang, flash, boom…here we are on stage and the first words out of my mouth are, “Yo, Hawkeyes on three. 1…2…3…HAWKEYES!!” As I hope you can imagine, that was an awesome kick off for a concert that was destined to be a great one. We couldn’t lose. There were 5,000 screaming people in one of the best performing circumstances possible. Bellies pressed to the front of the stage laughing and grinning and singing along. I won’t describe again this favorite venue situation that I have so many times before. But the fact that it was happening here in Iowa at a homecoming concert will always be one of those “great incredibles” in my life. And the band was as on fire as the audience.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, everybody.
See you next time!
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.
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,
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,
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!
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!
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!