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 Ronnie Scott’s – London – April 2015. I think I said last time that we were “off to London to visit the Queen”. Well if you are as touched and enamored of jolly ole England and the British empire as I am and the rest of the world has been and come to be, you chuckle with delight these little quotes that come from fairy tales like, “I’m off to London to visit the Queen,” and of course, “off with their heads!” Well we’re back in London Town and if you were at Ronnie Scott’s you would have heard me reminisce how this is a fairytale dream come true to be playing again at the world famous jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s. There’s a who’s who of great jazzers—almost all of them enshrined in framed photos on the walls—that is mind blowing. The fact is that I really am a kid from Milwaukee who had a dream. Most people thinking about my life say, “Yes of course, you’re Al Jarreau. You are the this, the that, and the other and always have been.” How wrong. This was indeed a beautiful fairytale dream that began in the late 50s with my discovery of the great John Hendricks and Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross and their frequent gigs and engagements at Ronnie Scott’s in London, a new club way back when. I’ve been back several times since my first date here in 1976 and the same mind rush takes my breath away every time I step foot inside the club or even begin thinking about an upcoming date. The last time here was 15 months ago and we did something unprecedented for me. We played with Tom Walsh’s eight-piece horn band the entire album project “Jarreau” from 1983. A start to finish approach playing the record verbatim top to bottom with all the beautiful Jerry Hey horn arrangements, which were state of the art. Quincy would not be Quincy, and Michael Jackson would not be MJ without those horn arrangements by Jerry Hey (Larry Williams, my keyboard player today, played tenor and flute on those arrangements). I will always point to that engagement 15 months ago as being unique and exceptional and brilliant. People at Ronnie’s are serious jazzers and have made me part of their family even though they quietly wink at the fact that I do so much pop and R&B. They accept it as part of “Al Jarreau’s jazzin’ it up”…an extension of my jazz chops. As a matter of fact, I love that way of thinking about me and looking at me. That’s kind of how I would describe myself. This music setting is just what I came from since the George Duke period which itself was a reflection of a previous period of performing with trios that were the basis for who I am. See The Masquerade is Over (1965) and later on the Al Jarreau and George Duke Trio: Live at the Half Note 1965 album. The personal writing and composing didn’t really come until the late 1960s with a Jarreau band out of Minneapolis and Julio Martinez on guitar. The band immediately responded to that setting almost as though somewhere in their heads they were having the big flash of understanding that this is where it comes from. There we were all bunched together on a tight stage with people in the front row able to put down their knife and fork and reach out and touch my shoestrings. That’s intimate. That’s close. That’s personal. That’s what I love. This is a gig that requires a performer to give everything that you’ve ever done who’s made you who you are. They want all that you’ve become during 39 years to happen in 75 minutes. That’s not casual…that’s intense. But we did it! And maintained that casual, intimate, relaxed approach with lots of scattered comments about then and now, and even announcers at the BBC. But believe me it’s quite an intense experience for that guy in the first row hearing John Calderon’s guitar or Joe Turano’s sax solos or Mark Simmons’s drumming that is designed on the other hand to cover a 10,000 seater right there on your table next to the salt and pepper and your Vodka Collins. But this size room then very quickly allows for the intimacy of ballads and whispered phrases. It’s a variety package that really is enjoyable in this kind of intimate setting. Both nights were really fun with the band and me enjoying a special, enthusiastic response from people closer than 25 meters away. We rubbed shoulders and touched hands as we walked by. I think we all felt something of what Simon said when he introduced us at the start of every set that, “here’s a guy and band who we’ve known to play Wembley Arena and Albert Hall, but comes home from time to time to be with us at Ronnie Scott’s.” Up close and personal. Like I always do, I told the crowd that I’d be back soon. And that’s the truth…I love you. Until next time… Love, Al
Ronnie Scott’s – London – 2015
- posted ON 04.6.15 AT 11:19 AM
Ronnie Scott’s – London – April 2015.
I think I said last time that we were “off to London to visit the Queen”. Well if you are as touched and enamored of jolly ole England and the British empire as I am and the rest of the world has been and come to be, you chuckle with delight these little quotes that come from fairy tales like, “I’m off to London to visit the Queen,” and of course, “off with their heads!” Well we’re back in London Town and if you were at Ronnie Scott’s you would have heard me reminisce how this is a fairytale dream come true to be playing again at the world famous jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s. There’s a who’s who of great jazzers—almost all of them enshrined in framed photos on the walls—that is mind blowing. The fact is that I really am a kid from Milwaukee who had a dream. Most people thinking about my life say, “Yes of course, you’re Al Jarreau. You are the this, the that, and the other and always have been.” How wrong.
This was indeed a beautiful fairytale dream that began in the late 50s with my discovery of the great John Hendricks and Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross and their frequent gigs and engagements at Ronnie Scott’s in London, a new club way back when.
I’ve been back several times since my first date here in 1976 and the same mind rush takes my breath away every time I step foot inside the club or even begin thinking about an upcoming date. The last time here was 15 months ago and we did something unprecedented for me. We played with Tom Walsh’s eight-piece horn band the entire album project “Jarreau” from 1983. A start to finish approach playing the record verbatim top to bottom with all the beautiful Jerry Hey horn arrangements, which were state of the art. Quincy would not be Quincy, and Michael Jackson would not be MJ without those horn arrangements by Jerry Hey (Larry Williams, my keyboard player today, played tenor and flute on those arrangements). I will always point to that engagement 15 months ago as being unique and exceptional and brilliant.
People at Ronnie’s are serious jazzers and have made me part of their family even though they quietly wink at the fact that I do so much pop and R&B. They accept it as part of “Al Jarreau’s jazzin’ it up”…an extension of my jazz chops. As a matter of fact, I love that way of thinking about me and looking at me. That’s kind of how I would describe myself. This music setting is just what I came from since the George Duke period which itself was a reflection of a previous period of performing with trios that were the basis for who I am. See The Masquerade is Over (1965) and later on the Al Jarreau and George Duke Trio: Live at the Half Note 1965 album. The personal writing and composing didn’t really come until the late 1960s with a Jarreau band out of Minneapolis and Julio Martinez on guitar.
The band immediately responded to that setting almost as though somewhere in their heads they were having the big flash of understanding that this is where it comes from. There we were all bunched together on a tight stage with people in the front row able to put down their knife and fork and reach out and touch my shoestrings. That’s intimate. That’s close. That’s personal. That’s what I love. This is a gig that requires a performer to give everything that you’ve ever done who’s made you who you are. They want all that you’ve become during 39 years to happen in 75 minutes. That’s not casual…that’s intense. But we did it! And maintained that casual, intimate, relaxed approach with lots of scattered comments about then and now, and even announcers at the BBC. But believe me it’s quite an intense experience for that guy in the first row hearing John Calderon’s guitar or Joe Turano’s sax solos or Mark Simmons’s drumming that is designed on the other hand to cover a 10,000 seater right there on your table next to the salt and pepper and your Vodka Collins. But this size room then very quickly allows for the intimacy of ballads and whispered phrases. It’s a variety package that really is enjoyable in this kind of intimate setting.
Both nights were really fun with the band and me enjoying a special, enthusiastic response from people closer than 25 meters away. We rubbed shoulders and touched hands as we walked by. I think we all felt something of what Simon said when he introduced us at the start of every set that, “here’s a guy and band who we’ve known to play Wembley Arena and Albert Hall, but comes home from time to time to be with us at Ronnie Scott’s.” Up close and personal.
Like I always do, I told the crowd that I’d be back soon. And that’s the truth…I love you.
Until next time…
Hi you guys,
Cape Town, South Africa…WOW! I think I must say this really often but I’ll say it again: I wish you could have been there with me. Anyone anyone anyone who has ever been here surely walks away saying what a wonderful, beautiful city and location. I have to come back and bring everybody I know. Places like this on a warm coastline waterfront are typically so crowded and bustling with nervous energy that for many folks it can be a turnoff. Here there’s something more relaxed and comfortable but far beyond that is the friendly and joyous spirit of the people. And if you look closely you can see an infectious kind of joy and hopefulness of the mind and heart that causes and friendliness and truly welcoming spirit that makes the work “hospitality” seem jaded and inappropriate. There’s a spring in their step and expectation of “good things to come” that ought to be packaged and sprinkled all over the world. Somebody will surly say, “Well of course, look what they’ve been through!” And my response to that in as light hearted and not heavy of a fashion as I can be is if it had not been for the grace of God you or I could have been through all of that. Exactly exactly exactly! And that’s the reason for you and I to be grateful and gracious and happy about every new breath of fresh air.
These are the thoughts that I had as I got into the car to the airport…festival staff smiling and happy trying to do any and everything to make us more happy and comfortable. It was not at all lost on me that these were brown skin people just like me who have found something special…some joy and gratitude for life and breath at the moment and big expectations about the future.
This is the 16th year of the festival and I’m real late to the party. But another part of me says it’s just the right time in my life to have a new expansion of my audience and wouldn’t that be wonderful for it to be South Africa. Cape Town, South Africa.
So I’ll return in a heartbeat. After all, if your audience is happy and singing and clapping you’ve got to be thrilled…and I am!
We had a great press conference chat with some very insightful press and jazz people the day before the show. As a matter of fact I continued to be amazed at traveling, for instance, to Poland or France or Germany or Italy and finding some real burning hot beds of jazz with high enthusiasm for its special attributes and qualities.
Oh by the way, I’m going to include the lyric for a song that the band and I wrote especially for South Africa. It appeared on the “All I Got” album in 2002 but ended up being basically unheard and that’s kind of a bummer because we worked really hard on this song it’s got a lot of nice moments and elements. At the press conference I handed out lyrics to this song and apologized for not being aggressive and forward enough in announcing “Jacaranda Bougainvillea”.
Oh what a dream, Oh what a story.
Don’t have to weep, Come and enjoy a smile.
Opening scene is just like a doorway.
Here’s a story, in rhythm and rhyme.
There is a tree on the street and in the forest.
Lavender dream whispered a poet.
Bright potpourri. The envy of orchids,
When it’s dressed in a pink and fuchsia twine.
Jacaranda tree and the Bougainvillea vine.
Oh Mandela, that garden that you made,
Is a vision of the prayer, you must’ve been prayin’ everyday.
Sweet Azaleas, every color every kind.
And the first and the last are all divine (are God’s design).
There is a dream of the trees and of the flowers.
There is a season of peace at the borderline
Where we’re redeemed and history will crown us.
Jacaranda tree and Bougainvillea vine.
Oh Mandela, would you say that it’s alright?
When the children play they always say, they say that we were like
Cinderella, in your garden there’s a shrine,
To the first and the last they’re all divine.
One and all, big and small, a common birth.
Each and every child for all his worth.
Take the one who’s always last and make him first.
Take these seeds. Seed the earth.
Oh what a long way we have come.
Makin’ a home for everyone.
Comin’ along, way down South in Africa
Look at the Jacaranda tree huggin’ the Bougainvillea
So much to say!!! I’ve never talked about three South African brothers (really blood brothers) who lived with me, Susan, and Ryan back in the late 1990s.We had so much laughter and fun that my grin still hurts. One of those guys is a record executive at Universal Music.
On another note, I’m also grateful these days, thoughtfully putting little tick marks on my calendar as we complete another on-stage performance. I’m talking to myself, especially my legs, like some crazy man. I’m almost tweeting and texting and shouting at my legs to keep on pushing. “Come on guys, it’ll be alright.”
Ok we’re off to London to visit Ronnie Scott’s for two nights. Amazing! My first gig in London was at Ronnie’s in the mid 1970s. I was already in love with this world famous jazz room because of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross jazz vocal trio who played there in the late 50s and 60s. Around a year ago I played a two-night stint with a London horn band doing a top to bottom performance of the 1983 Jarreau album.
This relationship with Ronnie’s is really special. I cherish it and appreciate it being kept alive. This is rare stuff.
Ok I’ll be back to you shortly!
Artist In Residency – Mann Center and Clef Club
In Philadelphia there’s a master-class program in cooperation with the Mann Center for Performing Arts, which brings together junior and senior high school music students and renowned Jazz artists. It’s fantastic! It takes place over three days and involves performances by the students of music they’ve selected and rehearsed and very often involves the music of the artist in residency. The AIR (artist in residency) listens and comments on their performances and observes them as they grow and change over the three days. I’m delighted with the discovery that all of this takes place with the involvement and cooperation of the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz…OUTSTANDING! This is the kind of thing, which if cloned in some sort of miraculous fashion could really serve the preservation of one of America’s most precious art forms and cultural contributions.
It’s quite significant that many European countries with populations that were walled in by dictatorships and suppressive governments came to have their first glimpses of freedom by listening to Jazz music and watching American films. They will talk to you about Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Stan Kenton—“Am-jazz-adores”. You probably know that this music had its birthplace in the Deep South with a kinship to cotton fields and slavery and early gospel music and juke joints. It probably would not have happened without these elements. Even if we are embarrassed by these facts, we should celebrate this singular phenomenal occurrence. Today’s Rock n Roll and pop music owes its roots to the musical descendants of this form through Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and the Comets, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Stones, and Eric Clapton. This music today is played behind Wall Street commercials on television. “Here come old flat top…come together.”
So here we were in Philadelphia at the Clef Club of Jazz. I’ve already rambled too much so I’ll try to be brief here on out…BUT…this is a brilliant undertaking that deserves every bit of this.
Suffice it to say, Philadelphia is an amazing mecca for music, at least as important as New Orleans, Detroit, Los Angeles, or New York City. I’ll leave it to you to start finding individuals that range from Frankie Avalon to the “Delphonics” and Stanley Clarke. I kept saying, “It must be in the water,” that such incredible musical things happen at the confluence of the Delaware and the Schuylkill rivers. Great universities too.
The average age of these young choral participants was about 16 or 17. This was the first time that the Mann Center’s program has focused on singers instead of instrument players, so the kids came joyously and happily accepted this challenge of singing some Jazz music.
All 3 of these groups elected perform “Take Five.” My my my…what a challenge! There aren’t three recording professional Jazz singers who’ve taken on that song. And so it was good for them to experience one of the extreme challenges of Jazz performing. One of the groups also chose “Spain”, also a big singing performance challenge.
My first remarks of a comment or critique just flew out of my mouth. And it had to do with the fact that most Jazz singers do not do this kind of work. We could go down the list of them and after you mentioned Ella Fitzgerald and John Hendricks, the list gets quite small of singers who take on really complex music. Most well known Jazz singers sing music more in the style of Mark Murphy, Frank Sinatra, or Tony Bennett. It’s not necessary to be technically complex and as challenging as ‘Take Five” and “Spain,” and, for most, scat singing and improvising is a out of bounds. It requires a discipline and self-criticism that is beyond rare. You’ll know when you’re ready, and of course all of this requires experiment and trial and error.
There were sparks of fresh singing ability and talent shown by one girl who “wow-ed” the audience with her performance of Etta James’s “At Last” and a young man on “Teach Me Tonight”.
So the main thing here is to let you know about a marvelous thing that is already underway in Philadelphia that is surely the model for what could be and should be happening in America and the rest of the world. Get this; some visionary sponsors along with the Mann Center for Performing Arts realized a serious need that’s not being met in our public school programs. The sad thing is that music and arts programs have declined from the curriculum and many say with drastic implications. More on this later…
Let me close now by saying a huge “Thank You” to Rhoda Blount and her team for their spectacular work in leading the way for establishing this program and in particular for inviting me to participate and to educate myself too. Thank you to the Clef Club and the Mann Center of Performing Arts!
I’ll be back soon.
Horseshoe Casino – Hammond, IN – 2/13/15
This was a wonderful return for me to a seldomly-visited city with a good size audience. The first time was seven years ago with Take Six. This time, the promoter, Al Kennedy, partnered had me partnered with Jeffrey Osborne and Angela Winbush.
Hammond is situated in the Northwest corner of Indiana and feels like an extension of the south side of Chicago. I’m sure lots of our audience drove in from Chicago.
I was delighted all evening long with bursts of applause and shouts of recognition as we went through our program of “Jarreau” songs. As I think about it now it could be because seven years is a long time ago and that might be quite long for someone who wants to hear “Black and Blues” or “We’re in this Love Together” played live and in front of them. And so it was this evening with Jeffrey Osborne joining me on a version of “My Old Friend” which he also sang with me on my new George Duke tribute album.
It was great to have Rick O’Dell, a local and popular smooth jazz radio DJ, be the Emcee and begin the whole evening with what felt like a real friendly fireside chat. It’s kind of reassuring. It was great to see the audience respond to him sounding like an old friend rather than a peppy, quirky, comical 9am drive time DJ. He is simple and cool.
By the time we closed with “Roof Garden/Reach for It,” it was clear that we had satisfied a lot of people. So thank you, Al Kennedy. And, you guys who keep coming back to hear heartfelt, uplifting, joyous music, please Don’t stop!
We won. My new album, “My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke” is a tribute to a music master and genius. And on February 5th, it won the NAACP Image Award for Most Outstanding Jazz Album. How wonderfully fitting that Stanley Clarke and Dianne Reeves, who contributed greatly to success of this project, were also nominees in this category…along with Dave Koz and Jonathan Butler. I planned my acceptance speech to be short and sweet and simply name all the people who made this project happen in 45 seconds or less. This plan went totally out the window in the surprise of the moment and the walk and ten stairs to get on stage. I ended up pointing at my son, Ryan, who accompanied me to stage, and said, “I was just telling Ryan that it’s hard to believe I did my first record 40 years ago. And here I am with you today celebrating this new, wonderful project that is a tribute to my old friend George Duke.” That’s all I could get out of my mouth because my heart was in the way. But here’s who I should have thanked:
George Duke and his sons, Rashid and John, Concord Records and John Burke, Joe Gordon, my manager, Joe Turano, Stanley Clarke, Boney James, Marcus Miller, Dianne Reeves, Gerald Albright, Dr. John, Lalah Hathaway, Jeffrey Osborne, Kelly Price, Paul Jackson Jr, Jubu, Greg Phillinganes, Patrice Rushen, John Beasley, JR Robinson, Lenny Castro, Mike Cottone, Bobby Sparks, Brandon Coleman, Rob Bacon, Alex Al, Omari Williams, Porcha Clay, Katriz Trinidad, Fred Martin, Seth Presant, and Patrick Lundquist.
I’ll try to be brief in a moment when I could go on and on about the significance and importance of this album being recognized by the NAACP Image Awards. To have “My Old Friend” acknowledged and singled out in any capacity anywhere is of singular importance. The real deal for me is that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has stood up and applauded this first tribute to an exceptional man of color and artist within two years of his passing. This album of mine may be the first tribute to George. A Grammy Award could not proclaim this immense significance. This is a family recognizing one of its members, one of its own, and not letting the opportunity blow by. I’m sure that this project is just one of many that will celebrate George Duke. I dare to say that none of these projects will adequately cover the diversity and brilliance expressed by one man.
George Duke stands alone in a category by himself. You can start with Diz and include Miles and the new voices like Marsalis and Herbie and stand and applaud and shout and scream, but George played and composed across the genres like no one else. Look up fusion music and George will be there right alongside Billy Cobham, John McLaughlin, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Chick Corea. Look up pop music and R&B and George will be there alongside Earth, Wind, and Fire and Stevie Wonder. Look up funk and George will be there alongside Parliment-Funkadelic, George Clinton, James Brown, and Sly Stone. Go a little farther and take a giant step to find a classical piece called “Muir Woods Suite”…George composing for the symphony orchestra. I don’t know how you say all of this in one sentence or one breath…you can’t!
I’ll stop right there.
Thank you again, NAACP Image Awards, and thank you, George Duke!
Pepperdine – Dec 15th
This is our third appearance at Pepperdine University and it turns out to be a Christmas concert. WOW!! What new inspirations this brings to my thinking about appearances in Los Angeles in the future. Normally, for a long time now, my Los Angeles audience has met me at the Playboy Jazz Festival or the Long Beach Festival, which are huge events with lots of artists and distance from the stage to many festival music lovers. So being two feet and a little bend at the waist to touch hands with people in the first row was the description of an intimacy with my LA people that hasn’t occurred since the early days of my career (like at the Troubadour and the Bla Bla Café). This was really something quite special and I could feel that specialness emanating from this audience where the farthest seat was 180 feet away.
My cousin Sandy Moss and her husband were there, Shireen Reid (YAY!) from MusicCares came to say hello, Cat Bolton and the kids met me back stage before the show, Cindy Landon, Tom Canning, Jim Darby (one of my new best friends), and as you can guess lots of folks who live just around the corner from me all came to the show as well. That’s a great thing to be able to do in my hometown, so to speak.
The program we did was a kind of mix assortment of holiday treats and other old favorites of my music. That was a serious winning ticket! What a concept! And so several times I mentioned doing this program as a regular thing and got a great response. I need to bring back this intimacy to my home audience. I’m thinking Christmas time 2015.
Everyday I thank God for my fabulous band that has been so important to what I do for many years now. What a lucky and blessed guy I am. I said this in a little invocation back stage with the band before starting. I also said I hoped and wished for a continuation of this joy and love with my band and this little mini-ministry.
So Happy Thanksgiving, again, and Season’s Greetings and I pray joy and love and peace be yours forever more.
Musician Institute – Stanley Clarke Competition – 2014
I’m constantly amazed about those guys who manage to juggle full time touring schedules as well as a regular recording schedule with multiple projects, teaching and speaking engagements while raising a family too.
Enters Stanley Clarke. The two of us have shared the stage with George Duke and other collaborations that go back to the recording of the song, “Spain” in the 1980s. Not enough…there should have been more of all of this.
For 12 years Stanley has headed up a scholarship fund for young students at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. THAT’S FANTASTIC! Really important stuff. So when Stanley and his wife, Sophie, asked if would come and be a judge at the competition, I gave a real loud “YES”. And the main thing is obvious; we have to do any and everything we can to encourage young people to find their way into the arts. Any of these wonderful avenues of creating something now where there was nothing before is huge in how it describes and points out this magnificent gift of expression. And when you look at it closely you begin to understand that the arts are really “fine” in their exploration of human emotions. Joy, love, sadness, etc. In fact, these are the people that I want making political decisions for me in Sacramento and Washington D.C. Dig it?!?! ARTS…the workshop for human sensitivities.
Eight of us, including Paul Jackson and Byron Miller took out a sharp pencil and graded 5 students on the various aspects of performing, stage presence, etc. It was a wonderful event and amazing night!
Congratulations to all five finalists. You have already won. This music stuff that you’ll do the rest of your life will make you joyful and those around you will feel it.
Until next time…
The Blue Note Tokyo – 2014
This was a wonderful trip to Tokyo and the Blue Note.
Two consecutive nights of two shows each night has always been testy for me. That’s a lot of singing. So it’s always with some nervousness that I head for Japan and the Blue Note. But this time I walked on stage just 7 short weeks after a really important back surgery. And the conclusion is that it was a wonderful two nights.
Two extraordinary things happened. My band was on point as usual and it would be impossible for me to get to first base without them. But Arno Lucas, a percussionist who now lives 8-10 months of the year in Tokyo, playing and writing with Japanese artists, joined us on stage both nights. What he brought to me and the band and the audience was new and refreshing. Now mind you, Arno had played in my band for four plus years long ago but on these two nights it was seemed like he never left. But it also felt like he did leave and had returned with exciting gifts in a big sack. It was uplifting for the band and me and most certainly for the audience who rarely sees such and exciting performance from a percussionist. In fact, we began each of the four shows with Arno walking on from the side of the stage with me playing and percussively vocalizing some real exciting tambourine as we played a half version of Weather Report’s “Teen Town”. The original writing by Zawinul and Pastorius is so inventive and compelling that very few musical organizations even attempt it. So this audience of “jazzers” was immediately knocked on their butts when they heard the opening ethereal phrases of this new classic. A percussive bombshell. We’ve played this before but everything changed with Arno accompanying me on stage shouting and screaming and playing tambourine.
The audience, the second extraordinary component in this story, brought their own instruments. Their voices for sure, but this other thing that’s called joy and spirit and laughing-smiling expectation that in itself is a game changer. I know I am absolutely certain that I’ve mentioned this thing that audiences bring which I’ve sometimes referred to as fellowship and church. I suppose that’s a heady and lofty description of things but it is in fact what’s going on when you see an audience sing and respond to everybody from Taylor Swift to Bruce Springsteen. If you’ve ever sat in the middle of it you know what I’m talking about. And those of who know the Reverend Franklin Experience (Aretha’s father) and the Baptist church know exactly what I’m talking about. What a great description.
Joe Turano had put together a great collection of songs that gingerly avoided “Take Five”, “After All”, and “The Midnight Sun” (every night staples in our show). This opened up a space for some things from the new George Duke tribute CD and it all worked. A lesson learned.
I loved talking to the audience about their special Japanese bonsai and origami spirit and love for intricate and intimate detail which has made them serious fans of lots of western music, such as classical, jazz, blues, and country (with classical and jazz leading the way with detailed precision). And any of you who have ever seen a bonsai tree or an origami bird know what I’m talking about.
Maybe in short we can say there was a coming together of the old and new to create yet a new experience for the band and the audience. I won’t belabor that description.
I’m personally delighted to see the band and our little family was just laughing and grinning and thinking we had a wonderful outing in Japan. Just suffice to say how much I am thanking all my longtime Japanese friends for continuing to actively listen and show up to enjoy and support my music. What a Christmas present! Arno, too!
Thank you, Tokyo!
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!