2010 Summer in Review, Part 1

[Note: This is the first of several notes from Al about the 2010 summer and all its happenings. More on the way.]

Greetings everybody- Long time, no chat. But as I mentioned in my last post, I’m doing very very well. It’s already the end of September. Even though I’m very late in talking about so many of the concerts that I’ve done over the summer, I feel obliged to make some mention of those occasions because they did indeed happen and there were some really special moments that deserve their own courtesies.

As you know, the summer tour in Europe was an incomplete one because of some health issues; BUT, it began with a wonderful date at the Olympia Theatre in Paris. It’s always a special occasion to perform at The Olympia, and so it was again. But this time I was obliged to pay last respects to Francis Dreyfus. He was my first French promoter and in more recent years, established a quite successful record company that Marcus Miller records for. Marcus and I sat together at the memorial service.

I could tell from the audience’s response at the Olympia when I dedicated Summertime to his memory, that there were people there who felt special about Francis as well. Somehow we were able to maintain the flow of an entertaining evening and at the end of the night we were pleased to conclude that this first non-English speaking audience of this summer’s tour liked and appreciated the new program, ‘Look to the Rainbow Reprise’. It includes songs like We Got By and Sweet Potato Pie and Easy—songs that some of these people had heard, but probably 80% had not heard. After a first half of ‘Rainbow’ memorabilia, we came back with some big songs for me in France, Tell Me and Says, with its bubbly French lyric. We closed with 3 or 4 solid hits that included After All and Roof Garden. And said thanks for another special night at The Olympia.

Beautiful Gorgeous Vienna! When you return there again, you realize that your memories could not really hold and contain all the breathtaking visuals and, yes… splendor. We passed the Opera House where we’ve played often, and arrived at a festival location that’s completely new for me. Completely new, and completely unique. It’s on the grounds of a ‘green plant’ that converts 5 million tons of burnable waste per year into clean energy that powers local homes and businesses. The outside looks in the very best way like a kindergartener’s architectural crayon drawings come to life, and there are no hints whatsoever of what goes on inside. We hurried to the stage because the whole festival day is behind schedule and there’s a curfew. “We’re going to do some songs from our first times together, ok?” “OK!” The show was much like the Paris show in approach and response, full of memories for many, and a brand new listen for others. A quick hello to an old friend in the corner, and then we proceed to counterpoint from hard bumpin’ to mellow, with John Calderon joining me down front on This Time. And of course we do Take Five and After All, and we finish on time—Just enough time for a couple of encores, and everyone’s happy! Promoter, too! All of this in a brand new setting—new for me, new for the band, new for the audience. Thank you, Vienna, I love you.

Next stop Salzburg, Austria. So… A big loud thank you to Erich Zawinul who continues to come up with unusual venues (like Finkenstein Castle on the mountain, or Imst in Springtime). And now, here a return to Salzburg on the border, where I haven’t been for a thousand years. Nobody can remember when we were there the last time. I love it. Almost a brand new audience to play for, and to reintroduce to this music after they’ve grown up a lot. I like how close they are to the stage, and I say, “I can smell your perfume and I’m gonna sweat on your new shoes.” And this becomes the tone for the evening. Me and the band, we burned like the dickens, finding a moment to reminisce. “Oh yes, this is the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.” Smiles all around.

At this point with three shows under our belts, we were really hitting our stride in the new program, and that feels great! Feeling the music come together so tight is a wonderful benefit of extended tours, and we were on our way.

Paderborn, Germany: Yes, it’s my first time here—I would need help to point it out on a map. But it’s oh-so-perfect that it is happening. I wish all my promoters in the cities and countries where I work could read this and appreciate my viewpoint about some really important details. I have the most enthusiastic and youthful and loving audience in this country of Germany that any artist could wish for. Why? One really important answer to that question is that since the beginning, we committed to going to all the small towns… taking the music to the people, and so it continues today. (Thank you to my longtime German promoter Henning.) And so, when my old friend a local promoter Ralph and I were sharing our hellos and how-do-you-dos, I told him, “Tonight, we will make friends in this new small town, just like we did in the beginning.” And so we did, to a standing ovation. I love it, don’t stop.

After our show, I had a special visit with a singer named Ana from Paderborn. She may have come in looking for some sort of words of wisdom from an old pro, but before I knew it, the words were coming out of her mouth: “No band, no record deal… I sing because I love it.” Those are the magic words. I dance because I love it. I paint because I love it. I plant begonias because I love it. No one will ever see this, but I will do it because I love it. At the end of the night, she said, tongue in cheek, “Paderborn people never stand up.” I told her, I will sing in Paderborn til the day I die. … Thank you, Paderborn.

One of the most beautiful concert halls in the world, with padded red seats ascending from a stage level to a two story balcony with seats only a hundred and twenty feet away, like an indoor amphitheater. I’m speaking of the Philharmonie, 100 meters away from the cathedral in Cologne. You know the one, at Bischofgartenstrasse 1-5. Postal code 50667. (…Send them a post card!) Tonight, there are two five year olds in the third row, dressed alike, and here they are, all little wide eyes and open hearts. It tugs. I take a moment and talk about all the choices in the universe for kids. There’s opera, and ballet, and symphony, and even Al Jarreau. “I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, too.” It struck me to sing that, and it began some adventuresome improv flight, which the band immediately picked up on and we proceed through a wonderful evening of old and new music. I took a moment to look around—wow, young audience all around—Twenty to thirty mostly, and lots of teens. And on my ascent up the stairs through the audience to get offstage, I found Suzanne, who shows up with flowers and a letter about her good friend Thomas—She wants to give him a surprise gift of meeting backstage after the show. So we made it happen. It was a fun talk, made even better by another visit with Carol and Garo, my longtime friends. Thank you, Cologne!

[To be continued in the next post]
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