Honolulu, Hawaii

All this business of talking about Hawaii is very unusual indeed. Here’s yet another instance of a very cosmopolitan/international community that I feel I have conspicuously missed. I would be much happier if I could say that I’ve been to this 50th state in America only half as many times as I’ve been to Paris or Rome or Berlin. That’s not good. What an oversight. It is with real delight that I’m talking about Maui and Honolulu these days and I’m hoping that this is a start of more frequent visits.

The Convention Center is a big sprawling place where you can get lost. Somewhere here there’s a room that will hold 15,000 people. We will perform in one of the smaller ballrooms and will be quite contented with a way smaller turnout.

What’s particularly sweet about this return is that the last time I played here it was with The Honolulu Symphony Orchestra conducted by Matt Catingub. This time 15 years later, Matt has branched out even farther and is one of the principle organizers is a group called Hawaii Pops. This new organization is just about one year old and as the name implies, they are doing more than orchestra dates. Matt plays jazz keyboards and sax and leads his own jazz band ala Basie Ellington and Stan Kenton. They opened the show that night.

Larry Williams and I were swamped and ambushed by old friends who cheered and clapped for everything. Larry’s home base group as you know is Seawind. If you don’t know, look them up and listen and get your wig washed. They quietly became one of the most important jazz/pop/R&B bands of the late 70s and 80s. Their horn section was essential in Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson music. Their home base was Hawaii and the locals here know them well. For me there are people that go back to the 60s with George Duke in San Francisco. As warm and comfortable as all of the above seems, it is at the same time a bit anxious as you surely want to do your best in front of old friends and colleagues.

Matt and his band did a very fun and enjoyable big band “hop, skip, and a jump” through some familiar standards with a very appreciative audience applauding at every opportunity. I can’t tell you how reassuring that is…to here people so readily appreciating this tried and true but rarely played genre. Matt was a delightful bandleader. Funny. Witty. And he sang well too.

Aloha means not only “hello” but also “welcome”, “warm regards”, “good to see you again”, and “greetings to God inside of you”. We felt that everywhere, even hotel and convention center staff…and for sure this audience tonight. I took special enjoyment from watching people on their feet and dancing. Dancing! People dancing has a magical effect on everyone and everything. It re-inspires the players. Our “du-op” at the end of the evening always gets the jaw dropped and a huge grin. That’s a great memory for me as I sit here already anticipating a new frequency of visits to the island paradise of Hawaii.


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