Java Jazz Festival With The George Duke Trio

Jakarta, Indonesia – 3/2/12 and 3/4/12

Jakarta, Indonesia is way down in Southeast Asia, near Malaysia. It’s further south than the southeastern tip of China, one of a chain of island countries that could have been the setting for The King And I. It takes about 20+ hours to get there. Puff puff I’m tired.

God bless Peter Gontha. It was a real inspired flash of genius to begin this Java Jazz Festival (actually a cultural exchange program by any other name) more than a decade ago.

In addition to Al Jarreau with George Duke, other names on the marquee included Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Erykah Badu, Bobby McFerrin, Pat Metheny, and really good prominent locals.

We’re up early for an 8:30 pm sound check and we do the first of two nights at Java Jazz. I’m backstage doing my warm-ups, la la la la la. And Jeff Lorber Fusion is out front and on fire, and the people are on fire too. It’s hard to know who is inspiring whom. But I can tell you one thing that’s for sure: it would be hard to find a more enthusiastic audience anywhere on the planet. In fact, the next morning at a press conference I talked about how great the audience’s singing was.

Maybe if you were at the Apollo Theater in the 40’s, 50s, 60’s or danced your ass off at The Palladium, bloomers and britches and uptown… Just across town from where you lived you might have seen this celebration at Java Jazz in Jakarta, Indonesia, that RESEMBLES black folks in Harlem… Jumpin’ and bumpin’ and pumpin’… New new new.

Ok ok ok ok ok. They will never know the “Chitlin’ Circuit” that BB and Lightnin’ and Muddy knew but…

Both nights I was amazed to see what every songwriter dreams of… People singing their music. I watched in amazement as they approached the phrase… “And touched the face of God.”

The second night was more of the same except for the fact that George and I and the trio took another small, big step… We could feel it!!! We were tighter, and that made it looser. Cindy Bernadette, a beautiful and talented local singer, helped George and I sing Duke Ellington’s, “Mellow Tone.”

3000 screaming people on both nights. Our second night was with Pat Metheny. What a painter. He played with a drummer and bass player that night; really free and expressive. We also saw Chanté Moore and Bobby McFerrin, who are amazing musicians too. And off we went and had a great time. The George Duke Trio is amazing. Mike Manson is on bass, and Gorden Campbell on drums. Mike Manson is playing like a percussionist. And Gorden Campbell is a super drummer playing like a mad scientist. Intensity! And George was exploring the universe. When I’m with them, I’m going for it. And finding a new me as I do.

Indonesia was great. The people were wonderful and even the weather cooperated.

Thank you Peter Gontha and staff. What you’re doing is truly amazing. You’ve made an important new home for this great American art form called jazz. The cross-cultural exchange aspect is brilliant. Let’s do it again next year.

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