Seattle, WA

The billing was Al Jarreau and the George Duke Trio! Yeah! Me and George. We just may have started something here. I explained that George and I have a special history together. George has produced music on my records, and accompanied, and written songs with me, and we’ve toured together in various mixes and aggregations of great players and singers.

But what we have not done is to work as a trio and vocalist….. well, not since a long time ago, back before We Got By, my first “official” record, so to speak. This is an interesting little unknown chapter that needs more time than I can make now. But I told the audience the gist of it last night. George has a closetful of tapes of me and the George Duke Trio at the Half Note Club in San Francisco around 1965-68. And maybe with a touch here and there, we can put out some new old music from our early days, with a tour that features some of that music. Seattle was a hint.

George and the trio played stuff that’s ‘all over the place, honed to perfection, slammin!’ Masterpieces. Retro jazz to fusion R&B/rock, then the funk. Bassist Mike Manson and drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr. are both prodigies… ‘Nuff said!

With one 3-hour rehearsal of music under our belts, and a sound check, I jumped in the deep end. The Seattle audience was so hot and enthusiastic that the butterflies flew and so did we all.

I love ya, Seattle. Soon please!

Love, Al

P.S. Frank Smoll from Ripon was there. We talked about Doc Weiske!

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Ella Fitzgerald Tribute

The beautiful Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. is a serious patron of the Arts, and a real friend to Jazz. One year ago, I sang there in a tribute to the great Benny Golson (in “Whisper Not”). His compositions and sax are legendary. At that time I was invited to come back this year and sing the Ella Fitzgerald tribute with the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band, featuring Antonio Hart and Jimmy Heath with Dee Dee Bridgewater and Janis Siegel (Manhattan Transfer). It was a blast smash and sold out.

The collection of music that was played and sung really was a story about the broad variety and sophistication of Ella’s work (all the way from “A Tisket, A Tasket” to “How High the Moon” and “Cotton Tail.”

It was a real gala with audience on the edge of their seats all night. Dee was marvelously wild, polka dots and moon beams. Janis was preciously sophisticated, cool, and nimble. The band, conducted by saxist Antonio Hart (great player), played fine work all night.

Dee and I sang “Makin’ Whoopee” and Janis and I did “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.”

Janis and Dee were on point and breathed fresh sparkle into some great classics. The spirit and buzz of that evening will last and last. Thank you again, Kennedy Center. Kevin Struthers is a prince. Thanks, Big Band. Dee and Janis….. I love you.

Love, Al

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Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Patrick, my new assistant, 23 and a half years old, says Tahoe is wonderful. He won at the table ($35.00), met some lovely people, had drinks last night with them, and hit the slopes this morning. He crammed a lot of fun into a short stay, and he’s sitting beside me musing to himself: …wow! From his age, it would still be twelve more years before my first record in 1975.

Yes! Tahoe is a wonderland. Winter, Summer, and the rest. It’s said it before that people visiting fun resort towns make a great audience. Well ANY audience that shows up is a great audience but these folks didn’t work today, hurry home, change, and then hustle through traffic again to get here. They slept in and ordered breakfast in bed and know that it’s ok to get twisted tonight. With all that lined up, we had a ball. Stanley Sargeant on bass soloed beautifully and blew ‘em away. He and Mark Simmons on drums and John Calderon on guitar called ‘em downtown with some funk from someplace else.

I talked about the shushing sound of skiing, and found a little ‘shush’ sound for Walking in a Winter Wonderland choruses. Fun find. Sunlight and chlorophyll. Joe Turano’s Bell Carol arrangement is a winner every time he conducts the vocal entrances. I’m singing, he’s singing, Stanley, John, and Debbie Davis, too. Delicious complexity.

John gets the acoustic out and joins me on a stool down front, and now after screaming all night, he recalls a simple time, just perfect for the “I’ve seen fire, and I’ve seen rain…” Oh yes, let’s go on a journey.

Turano felt it, too, and played a lush ethereal synth pad backdrop for me to paint my way into Take 5. Another fun find!

And when crowd joined in to sing “O Come, let us adore him,” It choked me up and teared me up so completely that I couldn’t sing again ‘til the second verse that actually begins, “Sing, Choirs of Angels!” They sang so sweetly like the children’s church choir.

We closed the night with “Chestnuts Roasting” but there were several voices calling for more, and I signaled the band to go to Brazil with Agua de Beber and Mas Que Nada. The crowd joined in and it was magic.

Merry Christmas, y’all! Thanks for coming. Thanks Harrah’s, and Thank You Elfie backstage! You’re the best!

Love, Al

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Detroit, MI

Detroit was wonderful because Detroit audiences are always wonderful.
And because Phil Perry was wonderful.
And because Rachelle Ferrell was wonderful.
And because the Detroit Opera House is wonderful (1st time for me).

The Opera House was buzzing with excitement starting early afternoon at soundcheck—Technical staff and house crew and musicians and friends all on steroids at Christmas time.

When I ran into Phil that afternoon in the lobby, between handshakes and hugs, he said, “Al, I’m gonna sing to tracks tonight. I can’t afford my band, but I had to be here and do this eve with you and Rachelle here in Detroit.” I hugged him hard and said God Bless You Phil. I’m ready to do the same thing tomorrow. Promoters are struggling to stay in business and keep bringing music to the people. And yet, I’m fighting to keep my band intact, too.

He wore it out tonight with only tracks because he’s a great singer and consummate pro. With a sense of purpose and humor. I’d like to study voice with Phil.

I was backstage in the hallway and Rachelle peeked her head out of her dressing room and gave me that fabulous Rachelle grin and smile that goes from earlobe to earlobe with a kiddish giggle, and in a flash, memories of past times came bubbling and cascading, and before we could really consider what we were agreeing to, we had decided, yes, let’s sing together—“Call me out,” I said. “I’ll be there waiting on the side.”

As I waited and watched, I was saying to myself—Prodigy, genius, off the map, off the scale and chart. Rachelle’s highs boggle the mind and excite sympathetic overtones in the construction of the building that ring and vibrate on their own. Genius and Prodigy! No one, no vocalist, is working in this realm. Maybe a few instrumentalists in the past.

So I crossed the stage and we went popping and clicking into a vocal percussive exchange. Anything would be OK now. Here we were bouncing along and sharing the moment, two crazies from the same mold, in Detroit in the middle of Christmastime, performing never-rehearsed music. Beautiful!

It was a long exciting day, and we gave ‘em some more and they loved it there at the opera house. Thank you, Detroit, and Phil, and Rachelle, and Opera House.

Love, Al.

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Peekskill, NY

I’ve been nagged in the back of my mind for a long time about the origin of the name “Catskill” and now more recently (we played here last year, too) about Peekskill. It’s the Dutch! New York was originally called New Amsterdam. 400 years ago, there was a long strip of Eastern Seaboard territory that extended from Delaware to almost Cape Cod in Massachusetts. This was called New Netherland. The word ‘kill’ means ‘stream’ in Dutch. There’s a town called Fishkill, too, in the same area.

For us, it’s a beautiful New England sort of faire right off of a Courier and Ives Christmas card, and with the new falling snow, it’s a winter wonderland.

We’d been warned that ticket sales were slow and could have thought there would be some dampened enthusiasm—WRONG! People from these surrounding towns with romantic-sounding names (Tarrytown, Pleasantville, Sleepy Hollow, etc.) came and brought not only their Christmas spirit, but a real obvious “Go, Al, Go! We’ve loved you a long time! Don’t stop!”

There was Jimmy on the left aisle who taught Stallone to be Rocky, and a young mid-twenties blond guy who came down front who high-fived me and shook my hand so hard and said, “You’re the man, Al, you’re the man!”—All this like I just scored the winning touchdown. Believe me, I don’t have any delusions of being “Thee man.” But I do it with all my might and with all I got, and I swallow hard, and I never forget that when people acknowledge it and clap me hard on the back.

The Paramount Theatre’s marquee is smaller than the campus theatre marquee at my 800 student college in Ripon, Wisconsin… Just enough for my name and Russian Boys Choir in December. But when you see it, your heart suddenly spills over ‘cause you can see in your mind young couples of the past—the girl with hair in a flip, poodle skirt, and saddle shoes going in with her beau to see the brand new Blackboard Jungle or Rebel… just a beautiful reminder of times past.

They sang so strongly on choruses when they sang in unison, “Oh come, let us adore him.” It was like a church on Christmas Eve. I have a picture of it in my mind and it shimmers with light.

Merry Christmas, Peekskill. You were awesome. Band, thank you for preparing so well ahead of time.

God Bless this Christmas Season and God Bless us all… Everyone. And God Bless Tiny Tim

Love, Al

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Den Haag, Holland

We’re here in Holland, just a few short weeks from Christmas time. It’s crisp and cold and festive. I love it. We were here last year at Thanksgiving time for the Thomas Edison Awards, that typically recognize your long lifetime of work (as though it’s over!?). “Oh no!” I said—“I’ve just started!” I was touched and flattered by it all.

You need to know that Holland is a true Jazz Mecca, and loves Jazz, and that The North Sea Jazz Festival is perhaps the biggest Jazz Fest there is. Last year at the Awards, the Metropole Jazz Band/Orchestra, with conductor Vince Mendoza, did two concerts with me, performing his new arrangements of my music. But for that event, we were not in The Hague, 35 year home of the North Sea Jazz Fest.

So this recent performance was quite new for this audience of longtime friends who had not heard this program, my songs with full orchestral accompaniment. Jürg Keller was conducting this year. The arrangements are lush and thick, and sparkle with highs and lows that just enhance everything. The solos are jazzy, funky, and wonderfully true to the genre. It was, in fact, Al Jarreau with Big Band and Strings, with a variety of internal combos plus voices.

There are moments that refresh, and allow you to rediscover yourself because of a brand new setting that causes you to venture and adventure into a new world. I described this to the audience, and followed it with “And you find out that…[in unison they said]… ‘It’s OK!’” They definitely got it. They said it. When that happened, the doors blew open and it became an extraordinary flight of unexpected tangents and exclusions that surprised everybody, and me too. I absolutely live for and die for this experience. It’s so fresh with creativity that it’s got sunlight chlorophyll.

When I started talking about my first small dates in Holland, and the specific venues, a guy in the balcony, upper right, says, “Al, it was The Spectacle!” And then the next venue was the round church, Sonesta. He shouted agreement. Then soon after, the Great North Sea Jazz Festival—“Right!” he said. ….I love this stuff! It changes everything. I kept calling him my new manager. And anyone who was there knows this was not planned, but in and of the moment.

As we had planned, however, we did a good long program of Al Jarreau music, including We’re in this Love, Spain, After All, Take Five, etc. , and hearing this familiar stuff with orchestra for the first time, the crowd gave us a strong reaction. I’ll never forget the reaction of a man the 2nd row on the left aisle, while listening to Joe Zawinul’s A Remark You Made. He wept face in hands, shoulders shaking.

We ended with Roof Garden, but hadn’t rehearsed an encore. Jürg brilliantly signaled them into a reprise of We’re, but the audience wanted more. I threw my hands up and walked slowly back on stage, just humming a made up melody, and suddenly master pianist Cor Baker was there with me on keyboards, improvising in this very little musical frame that grew and expanded, and pretty soon I was accompanying him with little clicks and bass vocal sounds, and he was soloing, stretching out, and then back to simple stuff that I had begun, with a quiet conclusion. It was an unexpected musical dessert, whipped up right before our eyes. Cor and I grinned and gushed like kids!

My wife Susan can tell you how scared and nervous I have been about this new music and these new arrangements with Metropole. … I think we did OK.

Thank you, Den Haag, and thank you Nederlands! Thank you, Metropole and Jürg—I pray for more!

Love, Al

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