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

Berklee College of Music

Here we are, doing a two day stop at Berklee College of Music, where I’ll hang out with staff and a few students to Q&A, about all things considered, regarding jazz and music today. Roya was our hostess with the mostest, and made us feel real welcome, as though I might be SOMEBODY! Smile! She was great. I can see her now, waiting there to my right. So attentive! The whole occasion was a classy operation, to say the least. Thank you, Berklee!

Everybody doing music has known about Berklee College of Music, and their wonderful jazz program, par excellance! And one my closest associations with the college came from the time of my first recordings, and playing the jazz workshop and Paul’s Mall on Boylston Street, next to Strawberry Records. . I had a close friend named Andy, a high school class mate of my wife Susan, who was in jazz school at Berklee and studying guitar etc, and he and I just delighted in those occasions, when we could get together while I was performing, and he was studying. How hip… I don’t know how many women were on campus then, but Andy had found two of them who had formed a little performing quartet, called Edna. Andy and I truly thought how hip that was. Women in the jazz program, and all.

And so, I have to admit that through the years, I’ve thought of Berklee as a wonderful little Ivy League-ish enclave of Ivy League educators and students, who were doing this marvelous work of codifying and organizing jazz studies, for a select small, but growing, group of college students, with the interest and dollars to study jazz music in an academic setting.

WELL, that may have been the case at one time… maybe not. But, it sure is far from a school of music of today with 500+ teaching staff and enrollment of more than 4,000. That blows my mind. If I’m not wrong, a student to instructor ratio of 9 to 1, approximately. That’s amazing. The community of Berklee graduates must be enormous. And the influence on American music must be incredible.

It tickled me to no end, and it touched me to tears, to share the stage and some time with Terri Lyne Carrington, and also with Jeff Ramsey, who are on teaching staff, and who also have played in my band over the years. I was so proud, and it made me at home and comfortable when we played some music together on stage during the Q&A session. We rounded things off with a little luncheon, and then headed for the airport.

I still feel the pride of receiving an honorary degree from Berklee in 1991, along with Phil Collins.

Boston has always been one of my favorite cities in the world, for things beyond music. All the stuff that an American from Milwaukee or San Francisco would be touched and impressed by.  So here I am with another beautiful memory to add to my Boston strong memorabilia. Now I get a little break and rest period at home, where I’ll take a really deep breath. And so my thanks to Berklee and Boston, and all the graduates, who have helped make music of the world a lot better.

Love,

-Al


   - posted ON 01.31.16 AT 05:14 PM


Hammond, Indiana – December, 2015

To all my friends at Kappa Alpha Psi: I want to send you a belated Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, for inviting me to sing at your scholarship fundraiser evening. I feel honored… This work that you’re doing to help kids go to school is quintessential. Education has always been the answer, and will continue to be the answer, until kingdom come. You can get on the wings of a book, and become a doctor, lawyer, or in another moment, you can be transported in a novel to another galaxy and time.  This is God’s work, and you guys have been doing it for more than thirty years. So thank you again for allowing me to add to your effort.

Love,

Al Jarreau


   - posted ON 01.21.16 AT 07:17 AM


Los Angeles – Monk Institute Vocalists Competition

If you don’t know about the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, you really should look it up for all its glorious details.  But for short, Thelonious Monk III, Maria Fisher, and Clark Terry created it in 1986 for the purpose of furthering the legacy of jazz by finding and educating young musicians and singers. Amazingly, they have also partnered with the United Nations to put on an international Jazz Day. Each year, on April 30, over 80 nations around the world celebrate jazz, and its contribution and influence.

I’ve been blessed to be a part of International Jazz day for a few years now.  Last April, we were in Paris. A couple of years before, we were in Istanbul. Herbie Hancock is Chairman of the Board and is an eloquent spokesman for the group. This year, along with featuring a wonderful group of singers in competition, the institute did a tribute to Quincy Jones, with a large audience with a 20 piece band directed and rehearsed by John Beasley at Dolby Theater, in Hollywood. Anyone has to say that this is a wonderful upscale undertaking that really does jazz proud, for its wonderful importance and significance. We did the preliminary judging at UCLA basking in the sunshine and glow of one of the great universities on the planet. All for jazz!

I can’t say enough about the whole affair, and it would take too long if I could. Just try to believe me when I say that you’d have totally impressed with this year’s group of singers, taught and tutored by a cadre of well known professionals, including Kenny Burrel.   They were amazing… knocked my socks off.

There were singers in this class who are already singing at a high quality professional level. It’s too bad that the competition forces us to pick one winner, and a second and third place place finalist, but in doing so we are also rewarding these leaders with valuable scholarships. Each of the judges wishes we could do it for all of the contestants. The semifinals we on Saturday, we had the finals of the singing competition on Sunday, along the tribute to Quincy Jones, featuring appearances and comments by actor/director/singer Seth McFarlane, Jeff Goldblum, Billy D. Williams, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Freddy Cole, Patti Austin, Deedee Bridgewater, Luciana Souza,  and myself. I did a duet with Gretchen Parlato (a recent winner of the vocal competition), of “Human Nature,” one of Quincy’s massive musical successes. All in all, this was a magnificent two day celebration of jazz and the legacy of jazz, with its special contribution of improvisation, that lives even in today’s rock guitarists. Hello, Eric Clapton, and Slash, too! They took the queue from jazz to improvise.

By the way, let’s not overlook the wonderful support of this event by Concord Music Group, United Airlines, and Northrup Grumman… these guys get it!

And so, as the sun sinks slowly in the west, we say “see you soon!” to the wonderful Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. This time, in Los Angeles and Hollywood, the world’s Mecca of stardom and entertainment. Smile :)

I’ll see you next time!

-Al


   - posted ON 11.24.15 AT 06:29 PM


Milwaukee – November fundraiser event

Chugga-Chugga-Chugga-Chugga-Choo-Choo! “Roll on, Milwaukee Road!”

Of course you know that song, I wrote it! It comes from the “Glow” album. The song is about me, the train, that was born in Milwaukee. Born out of my mama’s dreams.

So, anyway, I returned for a second time within two months to do a fundraiser for Gathering on the Green, and for the Tom Cheeks Scholarship Fund. Tom Cheeks was a brilliant teacher and adviser, who mentored and impacted several generations of students, educators, politicians, and mothers and fathers and families. It’s his legacy that we honor with this scholarship to educate teachers who commit to teaching in the Milwaukee system for at least five years. I, and scores of other young people, went on to collages and universities because of him.

I’ve sung other times at Gathering on the Green- a group that reaches lots of marginalized kids in center city, and other similar neighborhoods in the Milwaukee area. GOTG works to support STEAM programs in the schools… Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.  As the public school district cut back on their coverage these very important subjects, somebody has to fill the void.  That is Gathering on the Green’s mission… to help these kids have a chance.

A wonderful connection that you can call coincidence, serendipity, or the hand of God- that Beth is from the Harold Samson family. Papa Harold owned the Red Carpet Inn, where I sang as college student with the Les Czimber Trio, getting my feet wet on the first steps of the yellow brick road. And here we are, nearly fifty years later, meeting this way and under these circumstances, and thrilled to the bone. Rob, Beth and her team sent invitations to a wonderfully precious and select group of enlightened, community-minded heavy hitters, who have been friendly to the needy through the years. The situation and circumstances of that evening were wonderfully special, and cozy and warm. GOTG talked to the Ouzakee County Country Club, and found some open hearts that offered us their banquet room, with a full bar, which was elegant and relaxed at the same time. We talked early on and decided to make the appearance especially intimate and personal, by my performing as a duo with Joe Turano (Also from Milwaukee!). Joe’s been in the touring band for almost 15 years now, and we have just started performing as a duo. New stuff that shows a real close up view to what I am and what I do. It’s different, and it was a smash!!! People saw and heard things, in a different way, than ever before. And we raised a nice chunk of money, too.

A reception followed the performance, and it was fabulous, to say the least, to be here, at home, on an occasion like this. I looked up and saw John Givens and Auggie Ray, class of ’55 Lincoln High School (The first group of Tom’s Kids – Tom Cheeks). I almost yelled in surprise. When you have friends like this, there’s a secret, somewhere deep in the smiles and greetings, that is worth a billion dollars. GAWD I love that! Anyway, when you see Rob and Beth, tell them to pass along my thanks and gratitude to all the guests, and staff of the country club.

-Al


   - posted ON 11.24.15 AT 03:32 PM


Cincinnati

Oh, you Buckeyes! How I love you Buckeyes! And yes, I know what a Buckeye is, it’s more than a football team.  Way bigger than a chestnut. Oops, sorry! Just havin’ fun. Fact: I know for sure that I’ve played more dates in the state of Ohio during my career than in any other state in the union. Fact: As Ohio goes, so goes the nation in so far as big important elections, while the hawkeyes of Iowa are right in there too. But their total population doesn’t approach the total population of Ohio voters and there’s a huge number of people from that population who have been Jarreau fans since the first record. They’ve come to concerts at Bogarts, Tri-City Jazz Festival, Ohio Theatre… etc …, oh, you Buckeyes, indeed! *See foot note*

Each and every time I’ve come to Cincinnati, I find myself exclaiming to myself, “Wow, they did it! They saved their down town! They kept their wonderful solid structures from the city’s early beginnings, including red brick warehouses, and lovely great buildings that housed the first businesses office buildings and department stores and restaurants and shops. They saved it!!!” And it feels so good to drive through down town and see PEOPLE! People going about their wonderful day of going to and from work, popping into a coffee shop, or John’s Hamburger Joint, which has been there for 50 years. This scene is disappearing in America. But ongratulations, Cincinnati- you did it, I love you for that. It makes me feel so good and reassured.

That’s what I felt last night, when I drove into town. When we got to the hotel, I saw Jackie, who surprised me and the guys. She is a very lovely wonderful rep. from the hotel’s front office. Her enthusiasm is so warm and gracious, that it really overflows.   And then when I went to my room, I looked out my window and “glory be,” there below me, was ice skating rink like Rockefeller Center Plaza in New York. I shouted to Brian, my assistant, “Look at that!” He smiled and also said, “wow.” Brian is from California and seeing people ice skate before his eyes was quite something; on the other hand,  it transports me to a time in Milwaukee, when I was in grade school, and junior high school, and was at a skating rink just like this. Not as fancy, they flooded the baseball field at Garfield Park, where they even had a pavilion where you could get a hot chocolate and warm up.

Show Day! I took a quick peek out the window, just to be sure the skating rink was still there. It was. And we headed off to sound check.

And there it was again, the spirit of Cincinnati! An old theater that’s been saved and kept functioning, AND this one’s with me and Jeffrey Osborne. One of you rascals out there is reading this and thinking, “yeah Al, old things still functioning.” And you’re right! You better believe it, baby. Bring your mama, bring your papa, we gonna do it for real. No lip-syncing, no pre-recorded anything. Real people doing it for real, with a happy healthy intention.

As I start singing “Mornin’,” I know that out there, somewhere, is some Sam Moore, from grade school and junior high school, and high school, and he was just in Milwaukee in the front row, with Jesse Nixon, and Willy Luster three weeks ago. I smile inside and feel warm and good. When he smiles and calls back to me, “yeah, Al, I’m here!”

I could hear Jeffrey and the audience from my dressing me, and believe me, the place was on fire. Jeffrey hits hard, folks. He’s got a big voice, with great range, and almost sounds classically trained with a funky edge. He’s a friend of George Duke’s, too. He sang on my new George Duke celebration record.

When we sang “My Old Friend,” I was kind of peeking over my shoulder to see if Jeffrey would come over and sing with me as he did on the record. Nope, not this time, but that did not stop me and the band from just “killing it” on this new sensitive arrangement of “My Old Friend.” Oh, by the way, check this out, here’s one for you, “My Old Friend” was written by the same guys who wrote “Nita Koo”: I will be here for you. Richard Paige and Steve George, originally from Pages, who became Mister Mister, and they are, in fact, a couple of blue-eyed, blonde haired “valley boys”, from Los Angeles. Don’t ya love it? You should.

We’ve returned to “We Got By,” and “Midnight Sun,” these days, and here is another audience that is right with us in lovin’ it all. That causes other stuff to sparkle, like old “Roof Garden,” and “Boogie Down.” We bowed a long time and headed for the lobby, to sign CD’s and autographs. This was a long one, but way cool that people are buying lots of CD’s after concerts. You can’t walk into a record store anymore. What a loss, but how wonderful tonight that we can sell CD’s right here after the gig. Great to say hi to Sam Moore and his son, who looks exactly like Sam, big broad smile, great spirit and attitude. We also said hi to Jackie’s son, all grown up now… 13 or 14, smile. So thank you again, Cincinnati, happy holidays, every day is Thanksgiving.

-Al

*Fact: I went to school at University of Iowa’s rehabilitation counseling program; however, I’ve only played three or four times in Iowa (all at the university) in my career since I started recording and touring.


   - posted ON 11.17.15 AT 10:21 AM


Cranston, RI

I love this time of year, which begins a four month long Christmas Eve Holiday season, that includes the golden harvest season, pumpkin orange, THANKS GIVING, Christmas carols and Christmas shopping, Christmas trees, the smell of nutmeg and cinnamon, and good things in the oven the night before Christmas. Now that’s a Christmas Eve!!! And of course, if you’re preparing some sort of Christmas Performance, you immediately begin practicing the day you get back to school, in September.

I’m so happy we did a lot of dates back East and in New England this fall. We watched the leaves turn and jackets and scarves come out of the closet.

I’ve found myself these days, talking to some new audiences. And I love that. I’m finally getting to some New England destinations for the first time, and feeling a long overdue satisfaction. New England people are a special breed, just like mid westerners, and Californians, and New Yorkers. I won’t try to describe the long list of specialnesses that set you apart from everyone else in the world, but the specialnesses are pretty fabulous, and will surely include clam chowder and evergreens. We rolled into Cranston around 12:30pm. Driving into Cranston, you say, “Oh, yes, this is America today. This is a great look at wonderful, beautiful middle class america!” Unvarnished, needing a few repairs, and a paint job, but it is in large part who we are. It’s who I am, and what I came from. Many of these people have a reliable old lunch pail at home, that helped pay college tuitions, and made us “upwardly mobile,” doing better than our moms and dads.  God bless our hearts when they showed up that night. I could see them, as I stood there in the wings, waiting to begin,  and I was so proud to be here my people!

Our first time here.  But when we hit the stage, it felt like we were old friends returning home. Hey, that’s the greatest and it’s happening a lot these days, as we meet new audiences for the first time, and play and sing with them the stuff they’ve been listening to  for thirty years. That experience occupies a special place in audience reactions and response that is really quite unlike anything else. Excuse the elaboration and oversimplification, but that audience situation is different than playing and performing, in front of an audience that sees me every sixteen months. There’s an “at last” sigh and response, that is a thing unto itself!

I’m remembering now pictures lining the backstage walls of Engelbert Humperdinck, The Wailers, Tower of Power, Boney James, Stanley Jordan, etc. They must have had the same reaction, including, “Wow, I can’t believe it! Let’s call the agency and get booked again as soon as possible.”

Well that was my reaction too. They rocked in their seats, and danced on their feets. And they pull encores out of me and the band as we stood with eyebrows raised to the hairline in surprise to this fantastic reaction. All grins and smiles.

Some people in the first row even had brought pristine LP’s of “Breakin’ Away,” “High Crime,” and “Look to the Rainbow,” that I did quick signatures on from stage. Later we did an hour long CD signing in the lobby. And that was great fun, really enjoyable. Here it was again, that sigh of “at last.” I could really feel it, y’all.

So I said, I’m looking forward to getting back to Cranston, and I’m grateful and thankful to my new found friends there. You really did spread the word about me very early on. Stay tuned and I’ll see you soon!

-Love Al


   - posted ON 11.17.15 AT 09:13 AM


Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Pronounced “Re-Ho-Beth,” with feeling, and wow are they proud of this very happening little atlantic seaboard “destination resort” community, that bursts at the seams during the summer, and warmish weather, spring or fall. It’s near D.C., and Baltimore, and you can even take a ferry boat over from New Jersey. And so this beautiful little 2 to 3 day festival has been a winner in this expanded neighborhood… for years. “Dread” greets us in the parking lot, with a big cool and casual smile. He’s a well known DJ announcer with dreads, and speckled with premature grey, and so the nick name. So cool! I’ll bet he even plays tenor, too. Mark Antoine and Steve Cole, guitarists and sax, are opening the evening, and they are on fire. I can hear them from back stage, causing bursts of shouting and clapping. “Hey, you guys, save a little of that for us!”  They were wonderful. Serious soloing. Dread introduces us, and away we go.
I grow more and more happy and appreciative with forty years of history, with lots of personal moments, with my audience of old time friends. Lots of these people know me from child herald. Just a great big house in a nice neighborhood of town. Then there’s Woodstock and Carter-Baron. Howard University and the D.A.R. Sometimes, with big festival shows, and other times on my own. Yeah!! That’s a history! I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
It’s always hard trying to decide a song selection, for these kinds of evenings. These people know every breath I take. I’m tempted to close my eyes and point at my song list, but instead, I spend 45 minutes pouring over my song list, feeling like I SHOULD have thrown darts at the page.
You cross your fingers and go! Soon, feeling so thankful and glad, of 40 years of stuff that people know. Joe Turano’s new arrangements really do sparkle and make me sing differently, and some how, that agitates the band in a different kind of way. The audience gets a newish kind of version of a song they know. We bounce along, and pretty soon, I’m showing off the cover of the new George Duke celebration CD. We enlarged it to be 18inches by 18inches! Right! Here comes my infomercial. We all chuckle, but then go quiet when Larry plays that beautiful, familiar acoustic piano run of delicious chords and notes, that are the signature, of this song, “My Old Friend”. For almost everybody, this is a first listen because we’ve never done it on tour before. We did another first, a hard stompin’, big bandish version of Joe Williams’s “Great City.”
We were obliged to do a quick Jazz Festival 75 minutes, but managed to squeeze in After All, Take Five, We’re in this Love Together, Boogie Down. Thank you everyone for your loyalty to my music, to me, and this style of music.
We signed CDs back stage, and hugged some special guests, and give a big round for Rehoboth Beach. A new setting for me. Thanks!
-Al

   - posted ON 11.12.15 AT 09:03 PM


Pittsburgh – Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild

Beautiful Pittsburgh for me! Which for me has a lot to do with the physical beauty that comes from the confluence joining three rivers, and their surrounding hillsides (So much like San Francisco, but much more accessible). Pittsburgh is also beautiful for me because of what I know of the gorgeous and fabulous steel and glass industry, that built America. Iron was smelted in huge blast furnaces, that became the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, interstate highways, railroad tracks, and aspects of our country. There are window panes everywhere in the world and America, as well as the glass and steel buildings throughout “downtown”; hence, steelers!
Well, here’s another one for the books! Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild is another sign that Pittsburgh is working to pull itself back from the edge of the brink of disaster, the edge of the black hole! Real true signs of American ingenuity, and guts and determination. How heartbreaking to see deserted, dilapidated broken down steel mills, with miles of empty parking lots, with weeds growing where workers used to park their cars at six in the morning. Heartbreaking to see the quiet lonesome smokestacks of steel mills looking like tall sad soldiers, with amputated arms, quiet and mute. Well… Once again, true to the old American spirit, of resilience and guts, there are new industries in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that have started up, like insurance and health groups, and business machine corporations, that employ a skilled labor force, that’s replaced the old steel worker, glass, and paint manufacturers. And I, for one, have to think, that underlying all of this rebirth and revitalization, is that we are all in this love together and have joint survival attitude amongst corporate management giants, cigars and bankers with board rooms.
So along comes Bill Strickland, and in that same spirit, he’s pulled together lots of resources, including corporate leaders, and grass roots volunteers, who have acquired properties in the old warehouse industrial district, and in fact, constructed new eye-popping facilities, that OF ALL THINGS features music and creative arts! When you walk in the music facility, you’re struck with all the big black & white photos of jazz artists and orchestras: Basie, Grey Brown, Ella, Ellington, and many more. This collection of photos can be in their own room or hall at the Gugenmheim, Paris, the Reichs Musee in Amsterdam. Somebody’s in love! Music and creative arts program for the elderly, poor, and marginalized in the Pittsburg area. They come and spend the day and discover a whole new side of themselves. And that’s hot and progressive! And a push back against all those forces that want to remove music and arts from our grade schools and high schools. Whether the art piece is Van Gogh’s Starry Night, B.B. King’s blues, Swan Lake,  Porgie and Bess – All these things represent the artist’s portrayal of all the human emotions that make us as we are, as human beings. They are the end product of the artists showing the artists own joy, pain, laughter, and putting it into physical form. There is nothing more important than being aware of our own shared joys, laughter, pain, and sorrow. The arts are the workshop of human sensitivities; therefore, so very good that our young people have the opportunity to explore the playing of sadness of sorrow or joy on a violin… aware that those feelings are there, in us all. People with those awarenesses don’t knock little old ladies down and snatch their purses. They don’t carry guns and shoot each other over territory and drugs. They tend to be concerned of the well-being of each other and those around them. They may be real interested in environmental issues: clean air, clean water, and preserving the wild life and foliage, for the future generation of kids they’ll leave behind.
Well, they called the right guy to come and sing for them!  The spirit of the whole opportunity was high energy positive, generous, and giving. The staff that greeted us was laughing and happy. They knew they were onto something good, and enjoyed being a part of it.
We did not let them down at all, and they brought their spirit, generosity, love, and kindness, and open heartedness, and the band was amazing. There were some people who had been to earlier concert dates with me and George Duke, but for the most part, this was a new audience. Many of them were hearing about me and listening to me for the first time – how truly satisfying for me to be making new friends. They enjoyed Turano’s soaring soprano solos, Mark Simmons’s kick drums and cymbals and special solos, Chris’s shared vocals with me, and Larry’s silver flute, and John’s screaming guitar lines. They called for encore, and we called back. With lots of smiles and congratulations back stage, off we went to meet Bill Strickland, and his special staff and guests. HE WAS SO PROUD, and I was proud for him, wishing there had been a chance for the two of us to talk about his dream. This was a real serious multi-million dollar accomplishment. For me, being at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, was an opportunity to return to Pittsburgh, and remind my long time audience that I’m still around, and to also find some new friends and listeners.  Off I go to the next city!
-Al

   - posted ON 11.12.15 AT 09:00 PM


New Haven, CT – Benefit for CCA

Two weeks ago, I did some press and radio, and talked about an upcoming fundraising concert, for a group called Christian Community Action, which is in fact a “people helping people” notion and idea, in action. They are a model organization.

An excellent formatted approach that could be copied and taught around the country. They have Reverend Bonita Grubbs, who is the smart and powerful chairman. “The engine” who thought it all up, and put this together, more than twenty years ago. She manages to bring together and galvanize grass roots people, and professionals, and enlightened successful business executives (who realize that when the people in the community are ok and doing well, they will support and bring dollars to anyone that has a product to sell). CCA says, “we provide housing, health, and hope.”

All of the above happened two weeks ago. Well, last night, we drove from Boston to New Haven, passing through some little towns, but mostly rural country side. Suddenly, like “snap your finger” magic, we were in this little well kept New England town, with shops and store fronts. One traffic light, a small church, and people scurrying around, in the evening hustle and bustle, as though it were the week before Christmas. Not realizing where we really were, I said out loud, “what an amazing little town. It feels so good.” That’s when it dawned on me that we were, in fact, New Haven, Connecticut… Yale University. No wonder!  I had some how totally disconnected Yale from New Haven. And maybe the connection was never very strong, as I’m one of those Mid West guys, now living in California.

“Let’s go to the next morning,” I looked out my window, at the grassy quadrangle, in the center of campus, with it’s familiar X like walking paths… so gorgeous now, in autumn, with leaves turning to gold, red, and orange. The buildings were stately red brick and stone structures, that truly are, in fact, covered with ivy. There’s an old church steeple, in fact, too, right on campus. In my mind, I could hear their bells, peeling at vesper.

Abra Cadabra! Well, here it was, the model for the great classic “halls of ivy” universities campuses. The model for all of America, and patterned after the great universities of Europe. This is Ivy League! The famed Ivy League. Looking at it, you see Notre Dame, and UC Berkley, U of I (Indiana or Illinois), this is the model. Even my little Alma Mater “Ripon”. As quadrangle crosswalks surrounded by red brick buildings with ivy, and a nearby church steeple. Classic, dignified, stately! And this university is certainly one of the wealthiest communities, business or educational in the world.

Abra Cadabra! Moments later, as we drove to sound check, a whole new reality came crashing in on me. In the really small center of town, there were homeless people, looking disheveled, needing a bath, food, and a place to sleep. IT’S EVERYWHERE! This is downtown Detroit, this is downtown Chicago, this is downtown Miami, it’s everywhere. The homeless, the unemployed, the sick, and tonight we would do a benefit concert for Reverend Bonita Grubbs. The Reverend, Ms. Grubbs, who speaks to the very obvious and apparent community of marginalized Americans. All of this today was predicted by what she saw then. It’s everywhere. In short, these are symptoms of a really broad failing at the highest levels of thinking and planning and concern, and believe me, it has trickled down.

But boy, oh boy, we had a wonderful time, playing and singing music together, and truly rejoicing in our certainty of direction, as we celebrated this notion of people helping people.

Local DJ, Ed Tankus from Blue Plate Radio, the gentleman I had talked to two weeks prior was there, smiling like a proud papa. He gets it, and got it.

The band played their hearts out, and the audience stood and cheered, and we had a meet and greet on the balcony of the theater. We even talked about doing this again next year, I said, “Call me!”


   - posted ON 11.12.15 AT 08:50 PM


Montreux, Switzerland – Montreux Jazz Academy

We just finished up a week in Montreux, Switzerland, home of the Jazz Fest founded by Claude Nobs. Last year was the first year of their Academy, and that makes what we are taking part in here the second in what will surely be a long-running tradition. Montreux is distinguishing itself as one of the few festivals that has an associated academy for young jazz musicians. Let me explain: When they say “Academy,” they make no attempt to put together a curriculum like a Berklee, Juilliard, North Texas State, Indiana, etc. This is more of a weeklong workshop where young musicians spend time with more established musicians, or mentors, who offer advice, tips, and critiques of current level skills, with notions of how to improve.

Each of the young musicians here—I hesitate to call them ‘students’—is the winner of a Montreux Jazz competition, whether vocal, guitar, or piano. There are meetings during the week with the mentors and students, and based on what mentors hear them doing during rehearsals for an end-of-week public performance, we can offer suggestions on how to build their skills and continue toward their next level of profession. I worked with 5 other mentors, and one of them, Joe Sanders, is a bass player from guess where—Milwaukee. I couldn’t believe it. Joe Turano, Joe Sanders, and me, three jazzers, three kids from Milwaukee, had all found our way to Montreux the same week. Could not believe it.

And then there was the setting for the week: Amazing! I looked out my window across the lake at the mountains, with snow-capped peaks in the far distance, and said “Wow.”

Then, I looked out my window and directly down, and saw the beautiful modern structure with a prominent sign on it that read, “Miles Davis Hall.”  It has a large auditorium and a smaller 200 seat clubbish kind of venue. In the world, there may somewhere be another concert hall or venue dubbed with the name Miles Davis or a similar colleague like a Duke Ellington… some such place. But shoot, I’ve been a lot of places in my life and I’ve never seen one. So I have to marvel at how far this truly American form of music called ‘jazz’ has come. Well, we all know for sure that Jazz is not enjoying the likes of its biggest heydays, but on the other hand, I’m forced to throw my head back and laugh with Miles and Dizz and the Duke and the Count and Trane and Parker about how far the form and genre has come.

Joe Turano, my music director, and Patrick Lundquist and I were invited to this heavenly haven for Jazz, on a totally different continent from where it was born. There are people in neighboring countries and continents who have found something so compelling in the joyousness and happy interaction of musicians and audience, amongst themselves and between themselves. This has served to take Jazz far beyond the juke joints and dark alleys of New Orleans and St. Louis. I’m thrilled at that realization and knowledge.

We’ve been hearing some young jazz guitarists and pianists who are already playing at a real high professional level with technical brilliance and genius on the one hand, and at the same time improvise freely with new notions and ideas. And the singers have blown me away. I can’t sing the things that they’re singing. We’ve had some intimate heart to heart chats that had all of us in tears. Joe Turano and I have especially talked about this ‘getaway’ occasion for delving deep into the music away from the maddening world and normal life, and their demands. Sure enough it has not been that wonderful occasion to work exclusively on our own music, but this hangout with students who are doing that with us looking on with 5 other mentors does truly and certainly bring some serious satisfactions and joys.

The Academy student group is all housed together in a building called Maison Waddilove. They work on music from sunup to sundown, and beyond. They help each other to make their compositions expand and explode in the performing situation with new notions and ideas. The singers are singing violinish-like solo lines, winding, weaving, way too high. But they magically make the songs and compositions what they should be. I’m constantly marveling. From the first performance to the second performance in one evening, we saw a leap in confidence and comfort, and spontaneity that blew everybody’s minds. They themselves were blown away at this magical stuff called music. I am certain that the audience was transformed. And that’s a marvelous thing.

When something happens that makes you feel good, feel better, makes you smile and laugh, some say you experience a little bit of healing. If you get a chance to be part of that, don’t hesitate. If the Academy had any questions about the importance of this venture, I’m sure they’re finding really good answers to those questions just seeing the glow on everybody’s faces and the twinkle in their eyes.

This five-day week was drawing to a close, and we wondered where the time had gone to, and wished it could go on and on. This comes with some melancholy and sadness, but that in itself is a good description of how profoundly moving it was. I’m reassured, and different than I was when I came here, even having mornings where I awoke before dawn, hearing musical lines and singing them into my tape recorder and THEN ordering coffee, because this would be an early morning wakeup for me. I did not attend the late night jam sessions—That’s a little too much for me—but Patrick, who’s writing music himself, didn’t miss a thing, and sure enough ended up writing lyrics for that violinish singing part by the Hungarian pianist, and still another composition by the Brazilian guitarist. How totally unexpected. And somebody should say now: “That’s the magic of music.”

I could go on and on, but I’ll finish with one last thought having to do with how much the mentoring role has expanded my thinking about instructing and teaching and commenting, especially about the ‘cardiology effect’ of this music stuff, and the inevitable super-sensitizing consequence and outcome of this art form. You’ll be writing those Christmas cards that say Joy and Peace and Goodwill to Men and Women and Neighbors and Children and Friends and Immigrants. I am happy, and I give a great big thank you to Joe Turano for coming with me, and discussing with me so many things during this whole week. Same goes for Patrick. What a surprise.

Thank you, Montreux Jazz Foundation, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s so important.

Love, Al


   - posted ON 10.18.15 AT 06:14 PM