We took a 5 hour flight from Los Angeles to NYC and hung out for 4 hours, then took an 8 hour flight to Casablanca, and drove for an hour to Rabat, the capital. Sound romantic? It is! Still, it is a long way for a gig. This is the Northwestern coast of Africa, a city on the coastline of the Atlantic, with Spain and the Mediterranean a stone’s throw to the North. Rabat is the capital of Morocco and is so modern and beautiful and contemporary as to make a Chicagoan feel at home.

The call to prayer happens 5 times a day and almost everyone responds. In the meantime, all the regular activities of the day precede and flow along with fewer church entanglements than Bloomington, Indiana. And I wish the 405 in LA (the main artery) was as smooth and well maintained. I was impressed, totally!
Everybody here looks like Joe Sample and Felicia Rashad, New Orleans Creole, beautiful people.

We opened the festival, but take a look at the coming attractions; Elton John, Sting, Julio Englesias, Carlos Santana, and two dozen other local and international artists. In its 9th year, this is brilliance of planning and organization par excellence! This makes a truly universal music festival for the local people, and most importantly sends the artists home with interactions and interconnections that will always recall where it happened.

We had a lively press conference the day before stage, with 35 or 40 people. Most questions were posed in French, with a translator… Smart, thoughtful questions that demonstrated not only their understanding of me as an artist, but of music and its hows and whys. We had fun, and Rim, our escort, was great and gracious. Thanks, Edgy!

Our performance was fun, but could have had more connection with the crowd. I think we were all caught off guard by the distance from the stage to the audience. Maybe it was real normal for them. In the end, they were well pleased and happy. And at the reception with Aziz, we all talked about returning next year. I would love that.

My sincerest compliments again to the City of Rabat and to the Festival Staff on a fabulous and well-organized festival of international and world rhythms.

Al and Band

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Spokane, WA

We went to Spokane Washington to The Northern Quest Resort and Casino. It was great! I could do it again tonight.

It was my first time in the Northeast area of the state. So when I asked how many first-timers were here, almost everybody raised their hands and they were all smiles and anticipation, and took in every note and nuance, and got it.

Their response was so enthusiastic and strong that I’m feeling refreshed and buoyed up just thinking about it.

The music market has sagged and lagged right along with other stuff. So it’s great when audiences show up and laugh and smile and clap and sing and share and spread joy.

They could have stopped and stayed at the blackjack tables but they walked into the concert room and joined the party. Thank you thank you thank you!

The band played ‘inspired.’ The eyes in the audience were like saucers, and their mouths flew open when Larry took his hands off the keys and played the flute… For the band, the new program of old thumb print material was a hit. I could feel the audience respond to the variety of the evening.

My gang is shouting out a great big thank you to all the casino staff and Kalispel tribe. You took real good care of us. I can’t wait to come back.

Thank you, Spokane, for a great time… “You start me up!”


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Earl Klugh Weekend of Jazz at the Broadmoor

In Colorado Springs, with Earl Klugh as host, what an eye-popping breath-taking surprise setting! 6500 feet in the Rockies, with snow-capped Pike’s Peak in the background, sits this “Old Europe” style palatial manor estate.

Penrose Spencer from Pennsylvania struck it rich at Cripple Creek gold mine nearby, then traveled throughout Europe where I’m sure he must have seen the great castles and mansions which would be the prototype for the The Broadmoor. He bought the small Broadmoor Hotel and Casino, originally built it 1891, and in 1918 work began on the resort, now sprawling and expansive with 1900 employees.

The real unique thing is this collaboration between the resort hotel and the Jazz for a 3 day weekend with the guests getting 6 concerts of headliner artists and lots of smaller walk-in venues with duos, trios, and quartets. Each afternoon, there’s a Q&A session with the artists and fans, followed by a meet and greet hors d’oeuvres and champagne. It makes for a real intimate and personal contact between Jazz lovers and Jazz makers. Rare! My manager described it as “Kind of like a Jazz Cruise without the boat”—And I hope it catches on and expands.

God Bless Earl Klugh. The Klugh touch, as host, is so warm and personal and unpretentious that it feels like a family picnic with music. And so what happens is this opportunity for collaborations on stage between the weekend artist without Earl, and then with Earl. What an eye opening treat for the listeners! I saw it happen and was part of it on my night! Earl opened the evening with his special brand of intimate romantic acoustic guitar fire. His band was a counterpuntal flower garden and the audience screamed for more and got it.

We began with “Look to the Rainbow” from my 2nd album, whose message is to “Follow the fellow who follows a dream.” As an opener, it’s a cool bubbling middle groove burn as opposed to a hot hard-hitting socko buffo! But it pulls ya in onto the edge of your seat and at the end when I asked them to “follow me” and sing some jazzy little call and response lines, they were on it loud and enthusiastic. So off we jolly well went.

But the highlight was when Earl joined me to do his composition “This Time”—What a moment to behold! Hushed, silent church. And when Earl came back out to do the encore, the clapped and squealed like kids. “Agua de Beber.” They still weren’t through, so I asked Earl to please stay and find some “Sit in,” something to play on the double encore. In a flash, Joe Turano (keys and saxes) had found the sheet music and put it on Earl’s music stand. “After All.” He had never played this before, and they knew it. Earl was flawless, and they GOT IT! THEY GOT IT!

Volumes, in just a few short minutes.

Etc. etc. … We vowed to do it again. Thank you Earl, and thank you Broadmoor Jazz Weekenders!


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New York, New York!

Manhattan, Brooklyn, Harlem, Long Island, Queens, Bronx, People from New Jersey, Upstate New York—What a rush!

We played the Nokia Theatre in Times Square with Christian Scott, a young prodigy trumpet player from New Orleans.

I arrived a day early and did some radio and TV to promote the concert. It’s a rare opportunity and I jumped all over it—Long day, but refreshing to find a continuing interest from media.

I’m sure God’s prayer log is overflowing into the universe with “Dear God, it’s Paris tonight… Lemme get it right; It’s LA, It’s London, It’s New York tonight… let me get it right” Soooo it was wonderful to be back in my hotel room sitting on the side of the bed at midnight blubbering and mumbling over and over again, “Thank you, Father, we got it right.”

This was only the second performance of the new program with the new approach and presentation (see last entry about Disney Hall in LA). We did some fixes at sound check, and did our cool new slow burn intro into Look to the Rainbow. Nokia was sold out.

NYC has been a home base, old friend core for me since the beginning, and they welcomed me back home. So satisfying! The band got it, too. We could feel the surprise and delighted reactions to Sweet Potato Pie, We Got By, and You Don’t See Me, all home base tunes.

It was warm and friendly all night long; Fire and Rain with John Calderon’s classical guitar intro was a big hit.

On stage, I mentioned the real big security guard at KISS FM who shook my hand with such sincerity that it melted my heart.

And I watched one of the most precious things ever happen right before my eyes… The beginning and growth of a new friendship—I know it was the first Al Jarreau concert for this lady in the first row. Tentative at first, then starting to smile and get the little nuances and humors in the music, and the different feelings and emotions to share. She took the ride and we blew kisses to each other at the end of the evening, acknowledging things—her husband, too.

Then there was one more mystical magical moment; Mark Simmons (drums) and I went back out, head to head, on one mic, for some two man vocal percussion. We do this all the time and it always dissolves into laughter because of some funny lick that we came to—Not tonight! Somehow we came up with the perfect tempo for Boogie Down, the encore closer. The band heard it and slammed right into the opening vamp. I was blown away!

Thanks for the magic, New York! We got it right!

Love, Al

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Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles with Dee Dee Bridgewater

Wow! What a headline marquee. I can tell you for sure that it’s a real honor and special “recognition” to be invited to do your stuff in this prestigious renowned venue. Disney Concert Hall is the jewel in the crown of a new ultra-modern performing arts complex in downtown LA, and the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

Big?!?! We got lost trying to make sound check on time (architects on steroids). But we found our way, as we would do that very evening.

We found our way through a brand new program of music with a different approach and presentation. About three months ago, my music director Joe Turano (keyboards, saxes, vocals) came to me and said Walt Disney Hall is coming soon and we might want to do something special in that unique setting in Los Angeles—A brand new symphony concert hall—new home of the LA Symphony… something close and intimate. He said he had some ideas and would get back to me real soon.

He did and said that he’s been in the band for 10 years now and it’s occurred to him that there’s a real treasure trove of music that introduced ‘Al Jarreau’ to the world and began the journey… and that people would love to hear and rediscover that music today, now!

He went on to say that the Look to the Rainbow album and period is where I made that really warm personal connection with people that has been my hallmark signature and continues to this day.

Long story short, we reconfigured the band around me really close in, with a grand piano and all of it closer to the front of the stage, and proposed a new set of music that begins with a cool bubbling slow burn intro vamp to Look to the Rainbow. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but the set included Sweet Potato Pie, We Got By, She’s Leaving Home, and Easy. Unheard for years!

We’ve reminded ourselves to not neglect those really important crossover songs, but for the moment we’ll keep refining this fresh approach and pray it works in 2010.

Don Heckman, music reviewer for the LA Times accurately wrote that it took a little time for Al to get comfortable at Disney in the round, but I did, and it was a strong performance. At 70, Jarreau is still at the top of his game.

Of the evening as a whole, he said, “The combination of Al Jarreau and Dee Dee Bridgewater, performing at Disney Hall Sunday night on the same stage was an inspired booking. One could make a good case for the event as a rare display of brilliant jazz singing at the highest level.”

Thank you Los Angeles, Dee Dee, Disney Concert Hall!

Love, Al

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Miami, FL with Ramsey Lewis

The Adrienne Arsht Center is a huge ultra-modern complex with a gorgeous concert hall that we played: Knight Hall. Ramsey and his partner Larry Rosen did a great job announcing and promoting their jazz music education program in the local area schools. I pitched in with some interviews at press and radio, and I think it was effective in getting the attention of the target audience.

Backstage after the concert there were 15-20 music students from The University of Miami, all scrubbed faces, bright eyed and excited. That’s wonderful stuff, y’all!

Wonderful that young kids come and get excited about a performance of good and relevant music that’s different from what they are getting through regular ‘pop’ media channels where spectacle and extravaganza so often obscures and distracts. Let’s be clear; this kind of performing is wonderfully valuable, compelling, and has its place. Who could question M.J. and Bon Jovi and Beyoncé and Prince, etc. etc. – It’s just that the young music lover, and especially the young music student and future professional needs to know that there is some really beautiful and exciting music to do without a dance routine and fireworks.

And so, I hope out colleges and universities will fill in the void and make opportunities for exposure to excellent alternatives like jazz and classical, and how about theatre and ballet, and the whole spectrum of the arts. My band did light things up with some inspired jobs from all the guys, including Chris Walker’s “Human Nature” treatment.

On a different note, I have to mention that I’m so proud of my multi-cultural audience in Miami. They come and I think Ramsey Lewis and I together gave them a unique little spectrum of contemporary music arts at Knight Hall. I think the reation of those students was an excellent barometer of how the audience felt. Thumbs up!

Gracias and Thank you, Miami


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