Ronnie Scott’s – London – 2015

Ronnie Scott’s – London – April 2015.

I think I said last time that we were “off to London to visit the Queen”. Well if you are as touched and enamored of jolly ole England and the British empire as I am and the rest of the world has been and come to be, you chuckle with delight these little quotes that come from fairy tales like, “I’m off to London to visit the Queen,” and of course, “off with their heads!” Well we’re back in London Town and if you were at Ronnie Scott’s you would have heard me reminisce how this is a fairytale dream come true to be playing again at the world famous jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s. There’s a who’s who of great jazzers—almost all of them enshrined in framed photos on the walls—that is mind blowing. The fact is that I really am a kid from Milwaukee who had a dream. Most people thinking about my life say, “Yes of course, you’re Al Jarreau. You are the this, the that, and the other and always have been.” How wrong.

This was indeed a beautiful fairytale dream that began in the late 50s with my discovery of the great John Hendricks and Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross and their frequent gigs and engagements at Ronnie Scott’s in London, a new club way back when.

I’ve been back several times since my first date here in 1976 and the same mind rush takes my breath away every time I step foot inside the club or even begin thinking about an upcoming date. The last time here was 15 months ago and we did something unprecedented for me. We played with Tom Walsh’s eight-piece horn band the entire album project “Jarreau” from 1983. A start to finish approach playing the record verbatim top to bottom with all the beautiful Jerry Hey horn arrangements, which were state of the art. Quincy would not be Quincy, and Michael Jackson would not be MJ without those horn arrangements by Jerry Hey (Larry Williams, my keyboard player today, played tenor and flute on those arrangements). I will always point to that engagement 15 months ago as being unique and exceptional and brilliant.

People at Ronnie’s are serious jazzers and have made me part of their family even though they quietly wink at the fact that I do so much pop and R&B. They accept it as part of “Al Jarreau’s jazzin’ it up…an extension of my jazz chops. As a matter of fact, I love that way of thinking about me and looking at me. That’s kind of how I would describe myself. This music setting is just what I came from since the George Duke period which itself was a reflection of a previous period of performing with trios that were the basis for who I am. See The Masquerade is Over (1965) and later on the Al Jarreau and George Duke Trio: Live at the Half Note 1965 album. The personal writing and composing didn’t really come until the late 1960s with a Jarreau band out of Minneapolis and Julio Martinez on guitar.

The band immediately responded to that setting almost as though somewhere in their heads they were having the big flash of understanding that this is where it comes from. There we were all bunched together on a tight stage with people in the front row able to put down their knife and fork and reach out and touch my shoestrings. That’s intimate. That’s close. That’s personal. That’s what I love. This is a gig that requires a performer to give everything that you’ve ever done who’s made you who you are. They want all that you’ve become during 39 years to happen in 75 minutes. That’s not casual…that’s intense. But we did it! And maintained that casual, intimate, relaxed approach with lots of scattered comments about then and now, and even announcers at the BBC. But believe me it’s quite an intense experience for that guy in the first row hearing John Calderon’s guitar or Joe Turano’s sax solos or Mark Simmons’s drumming that is designed on the other hand to cover a 10,000 seater right there on your table next to the salt and pepper and your Vodka Collins. But this size room then very quickly allows for the intimacy of ballads and whispered phrases. It’s a variety package that really is enjoyable in this kind of intimate setting.

Both nights were really fun with the band and me enjoying a special, enthusiastic response from people closer than 25 meters away. We rubbed shoulders and touched hands as we walked by. I think we all felt something of what Simon said when he introduced us at the start of every set that, “here’s a guy and band who we’ve known to play Wembley Arena and Albert Hall, but comes home from time to time to be with us at Ronnie Scott’s.” Up close and personal.

Like I always do, I told the crowd that I’d be back soon. And that’s the truth…I love you.

Until next time…



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