Japan – Tokyo and Osaka – Al Jarreau and The George Duke Trio – 3/6/12 and 3/8/12


We woke up in the morning and flew north for 8 hours, with a connecting flight in Hong Kong.

Arriving in Japan for anyone, from anywhere, is a beautiful and wonderful cultural shock. For me, the simple temperature difference was such a relief. It was about 50 degrees. But then, what any visitor becomes immediately aware of is the orderliness and laboratory cleanliness. And respect for each other’s humanity, and the work that must be accomplished. Manicured! There wasn’t a discarded gum wrapper in sight. And there was a wonderful pride in all of this. This attitude is not window dressing; it’s centuries old. Origami and Bonsai trees. Precision. This is the second time in 7 months for me to be here. The first time was when a group of prominent American musicians made a record for, “Jazz For Japan,” with proceeds that helped support the tsunami survivors. I joined members of that band, and we did some musical fundraising events. So this was the return visit for me to Billboard Live Tokyo and Osaka.

This is the large, 400-seater jazz club that exists in very few places in the world. It’s intimate, but spacious enough to handle the big Steinway piano and extensive drum rig and bass setup. It’s about 45 feet across and 15 feet deep. They could host a big band here.

The seating is laid out so there’s a main floor and a balcony, unique in itself. How often do you get to play a balcony? Places like this inspire those unique and intimate personal statements. I had no idea that I would call out to Arno Lucas (percussionist/singer/band leader/composer) who played in my band for several years. He happened to be in Tokyo working for a Japanese pop group. He was in the upper left balcony. I called his name and he said, “Yea I’m here!” And I said, “Arno will you sing this line when it comes up in the song?” He said, “Yea man!” When he sang that answer line from the upper left balcony it was one of the most perfect moments in music that I’ve ever experienced. It was like we were in a church and he was singing from the upper balcony choir loft. And it was unrehearsed. Totally improvised. But it was Bonsai manicured. Thank you for that one Arno. I wish you could go with us to Osaka.

The George Duke Trio and I started to groove real hard. I’ve described The George Duke Trio on at least one other occasion this same way: This is not your grandfather’s cocktail hour trio. This is a power trio with players and instrumentation that can match the output of the big band or a rock and roll unit. So any singer standing with these guys has got to be digging deep and giving it up. You can be intimate and quiet if you want to, but you’ve got to be big and loud too.


Osaka was wonderful. There was an intimacy that rivaled any intimacy I’ve ever experienced. And oh the faces! The faces! They were full of heartfelt expression from deep inside. And they SANG ALONG. There was a guy by the front of the stage that sang with real passion and gusto. When I beckoned him to sing into the microphone, his joy and excitement could not be contained. It was loved and appreciated by everybody. They applauded and politely screamed their appreciation for the solos, and respectfully came to talk with us when we left the stage. We did two C.D. signings each night. Every time you leave the stage and go to the dressing room, you pass the kitchen area and it seems like the whole staff of chefs and servers and waiters are standing there smiling and applauding. Wow what a surprise! Nice touch! Don’t Stop!

This wrapped up and closed out the six concerts we played in Jakarta and Japan. And it was really great to see happy new faces and reconnect with old friendships and relationships. Thank you!


Al Jarreau

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