It’s up north there, near Hamburg, and I must have played here a bunch of times over the past since 1976. I’m certain there were a lot of people who came to Uncle Po in Hamburg during that first and second week in Germany in 1976, I spend several moments, thanking them for that great send off, and their loyalty to my music ever since. And I say, “Here we go again!” I was new back then, and now, I’m asking you to allow me to be new again doing Ellington with the Nord Deutsche Rundfunk Big Band. Thank you for coming tonight and taking a chance. This is extraordinary, you know! So in that spirit of things in the moment, we take Ellington himself on a trip.

Jorg, Joe Turano, and I have tried to be Jarreau-ish in our approach to Duke Ellington. We wanted our arrangements to sound like Al Jarreau and how he would approach things. We didn’t want our arrangements to sound like we had simply gone out and bought the sheet music and did something stock and unadventuresome. Of course, this is risky, but our thinking has been that if you take the time to look inside and find Al Jarreau-isms and build good solid arrangements around that, you very well could have something fresh and new. In fact, this is what we hope our audiences will sense and feel and respond to. So Hannover is concert number six, and I haven’t been thrown in jail for disrespect to Ellington. In fact, I’m pleased as punch, joyous and happy, at the response so far.


Sometimes, there is a person or group of people in the audience who just really are so present in their attention to what’s happening on stage, and so responsive, and happy about being there at that moment, that the performer is drawn to them, and in fact finds himself lifted to more and more inspired playing or singing. It happened tonight. There were two ladies in the second row, just right of center, who touched me that way. Of course, I did not ignore everyone else, but as I sang to other people out there, I brought the inspiration these two ladies in the second row. When it’s working like this, you even have fun with a loud mouth over in the right hand isle about 20 rows back, who yells something that is totally unintelligible and whack! I invite him to come up, and he says the same unintelligible whack thing again! It’s so comfortable in the house, that I tell him to come up to the stage again, and then he shuts and gets quiet. But I don’t stop! I said, “HEY!” So, look, everybody, he added as much of the specialness to that evening. Folks will remember that night because of that exchange between him and Al Jarreau, and that it didn’t interrupt the flow. It was so cool, it was as though it was planned.


This was a wonderful night that was really exceptional because of the looseness of things. Nothing pushed. We all just allowed it to happen… even the guy on the right. I wish I had a moment to say hi to those two ladies. If they’re reading this, they know who they were. Once again, a really big bow and thank you to my Hannover friends who love NDR and came to hear us take a ride on Ellington’s A Train.


-Al Jarreau

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