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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