September/October Tour!

Fort Lauderdale! Oh, Fort Lauderdale!

Maybe you can guess, this has some special other connotations that go beyond the normal. Especially for people in the snow-bound Midwest, there’s an almost paradise-like notion that is associated with that resort destination. And even more for kids who’ve been in school during a chilly fall and cold winter, who are approaching Spring Break, and have scrounged up enough dimes and quarters and dollars for a plane or train ride and four or five days stay in a motel with eight or ten other people eating peanut butter and crackers… Hanging out on a beach all day, and guzzling beer at night—Paaaarty!

I’m gonna date myself here, you guys, and ask you if you ever saw a movie called “Where the Boys Are” that starred Connie Francis. She in fact sang the title song of that film, of the same name. The bikini was new, and young people were exploring a new freedom that never existed in the generations before. Marlon Brando, James Dean, Black leather jackets, motorcycles, drag racing, etc., etc. This was a part of that culture for recent and current history buffs who might enjoy Warhol and Woody Allen, etc.—There is some special meaning here.

I got it and get it, even though I was a young black kid from center city who would have observed all of this from the fringes except that I went to school at a very white liberal arts college in the middle of Wisconsin, and was in the middle of that culture. And so, since my first concerts here at the Sunrise Theater in the late 70s, I have carried around with me all these pictures in my mind, however accurate or inaccurate they are, about another reality of Fort Lauderdale. A few days ago, I asked the question of a local crewmember who was driving us from the hotel to the gig, about whether Fort Lauderdale today is still a Spring Break destination city, and she said, “Oh yes!” That kind of satisfied my mind that I wasn’t too far away from the truth.

The sharp contrasting reality is that one of my most recent visits, around 5 years ago, was at the Hard Rock Café arena. It was a wonderful cross-cultural night. This time, we performed at a newly renovated Performing Arts Center venue, with comfortable and beautiful features including red velvet seats, three balconies, gleaming brass railings and fixtures, and a house full of people ready to party—The first row within sweating distance!

Tonight it would be me and Jeffrey Osborne with our individual bands. That alone is pretty hot stuff, y’all. Jeffrey and I both realize that we are amongst a rare breed of “adult music performers” who have continually been booked and are still performing regularly, despite the fact that we are not filling giant 20,000 seat arenas with screaming teenage girls. All this goes through my mind as I am standing in the wings and peaking out, soon to go on stage.

This audience welcomed us with great enthusiasm and appreciation that was quite adult-like, but still had a youthful fervor about it.

I reminded them that we were in fact celebrating the staying power of this kind of music. And I thanked them for their love and loyalty “after all these years.” And it was in that context that we shared some George Duke music and classics of mine. I continually pointed out that “This is live!” and talked directly to folks in the audience, saying this kind of interaction is the great joy of live performance.

Speaking of live performance! One of the great moments of the evening, even of this year of touring was when in the middle of “My Old Friend,” the title song for the latest album, my old friend Jeffrey Osborne surprised us all and showed up and sang the second verse as a solo! This was such a fun moment, especially because we had no idea he was going to come do it—What a great special drop-in! We had a lot of fun and even shared a microphone. The audience loved it. And so did I.

A few of my other favorite memories from this show: There was a couple that showed up late—Boy did I have fun with those folks. There was a man in a white suit who has shown up here and there before, and so I pointed him out and shouted a greeting. And then of course, the young couple, mid-20s, directly in front of me; the wife was especially pretty with a Billie Holliday-ish flower in her hair. I took that opportunity to talk to several other people in the front of the hall. This always make the evening stand out for me.

I hope I’m right in being reassured about this brand of music continuing to be attractive to a new 2015 generation of listeners, who, of course include lots of people over 35 and 40.

Well, you can be sure that I’ll be continuing to record and perform my brand. Thanks for coming everybody! See you in Norfolk! (Sleep fast, it’s an early wakeup!)




Norfolk, VA

From time to time, and thank God it’s not real often, we have some really demanding 24 hour segments of travel and performing. We got up at 6:30 in the morning after last night’s show, and went to the airport for an early departure. We flew to Norfolk arriving a little after 1pm, with no real point in stopping at the hotel for an hour. So instead, we went directly to the venue, loaded up on coffee (and sugar), and did our sound check. And for me, it made much more sense to stay at the hall rather than return to the hotel for an almost-but-not-quite rest that would result in less energy onstage.

Jeffrey and I and both bands were high-fiving and grinning about the previous night and took all that good energy to stage in Norfolk. This is a serious music community which lots of musicians and performers and veterans and new ones alike continue to refer to the Hampton Roads Jazz Festival community. That festival has been a longstanding tradition and dates back close to thirty years. Any and everybody in the Jazz/R&B community appeared at that wild and wonderful arena that held thousands of people. Sometimes the sound was not so great, but the feeling was always fabulous.

In spite of a short night’s sleep and airplane flight, we got started on time, and I could hear Jeffrey and his band just a-rompin’ and stompin’ and raucous-ing through their program of 15 or 20 hits.

The audience seemed not to have tired at all and carried their enthusiasm over to a loud welcome for the band and me. We as a band found ourselves picking up on that energy and enthusiasm that was buzzing in the auditorium, expanding on it with our own program. The audience had had a 20-minute break and intermission for set change, but their excitement carried over with no fatigue factor. I can still hear that little voice in my head that remarked to me, “This is wonderful!”

We surely have found some new places and spaces in Take Five and Roof Garden and other favorites. Maybe I’m especially aware of off-the-cuff verbal communications with audience people these days because we’re back in America with English speaking audience who get the subtle details. Here again tonight I talked to a lady to my left in a black and white dress with audience applauding her, and several other nearby who caught my eye.

Talking and chatting about the Celebrating George Duke tribute record brought oo’s and ah’s, because this audience had seen and heard George do bebop and pop and hip-bustin’ funk.

We blazed through our set, and the audience especially responded to We’re in This Love Together, even singing along. What a fun time—

And then, I got to go meet some people in the back of the auditorium, to sign some CDs. I was so happy to see such a long line of folks, and I shouted to the back, “I’m comin’!” They filed through, and finally got to the back of the line after an hour. It’s so special to get to meet folks face to face, and kiss some hands and shake some babies! They feel it, too. I don’t always have CDs to sign at the show, but when I do, it’s a nice treat to get to meet people.

Fun, much too quick visit to Norfolk. Let’s do it again!

I’m headed to Santiago, Chile to meet a new audience—That’s cool.





Santiago, Chile

Chilly in Chile!

We are in the airport about to leave Santiago, looking out at the same snow-capped mountains I could see from my window at the hotel. It reminds me of the old documentaries we would watch over the projector in elementary school in Milwaukee SIXTY years ago! “Up! Way up, high in the Andes Mountains of South America!” It captured my imagination then, and seeing them in person is wonderful.

This is my first time in Chile, and of course first time in the capital city of Santiago. Just a week ago, there was a huge earthquake that even made our news in Los Angeles. It was an 8.4, a really big one. And the crazy thing is… You wouldn’t even guess it. The people were happy, the city looked totally fine, and you couldn’t find so much as a crack in the sidewalk. Some serious engineering went into the creation of these buildings to make them earthquake proof. Very impressive work.

When we got off the plane a few days ago, we were all struck by how chilly it was in Chile! This is way far south in South America, and in the Southern Hemisphere, we are coming out of the winter months, and going into Spring. We had a day of rest before the show, and I needed it, and I took it! I did get to the gym, and on the day of the show, I looked out the window and saw rain, rain, rain on the windowpane! My mind immediately went to creative mode, and I was inspired by the room and the mountains and the city and the raindrops.

We got to the venue in the late afternoon and wow, what a venue! It reminded me of the great club/arena venues I would play in Europe when I was introducing myself to that continent—And it was a great reminder: These people have never seen me perform, only ever heard my music. This was a new audience in front of me, and we get to introduce my music and make some new friends. It is the kind of experience that an artist only gets to have on a few special instances in his whole career. I loved it… And so did they!

The audience was nodding their heads and dancing in their seats all night long. I could see them and hear them singing the words. And not just the chorus of “We’re In This Love Together,” but even the verses—Moonlighting, Roof Garden, Boogie Down. They were so excited to have us there, and the band fed off of it and gave it right back all night.

John Calderon especially! John found a great moment at the end of Black & Blues that he came right down front with his guitar, and sang loud, right into the same mic as me. The crowd ate it right up, and so did I. What fun. John is the only member of the band who speaks Spanish, and he felt right at home. He ALMOST wore a pair of dark James Dean Wayfarer sunglasses, but chickened out at the last minute. I won’t let him chicken out next time!

This audience really appreciated the pop hits. Your Song got big applause as the opener, Roof and High Crime, and the surprise one for me was Moonlighting. It turns out this is how a lot of people here got introduced to my music. Singing along from the start of the night to the end. I remembered all the rain outside that they all braved to get there, and started up impromptu “Singin’ In The Rain,” like a Jazz Gene Kelly. They got it! How wonderful! A big hello to Chilean jazzer Rossana, and to our wonderful promoter Jorge. What a guy, what a night!

I was so looking forward to my first visit to Chile, and I kept telling reporters, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry it took so long for me to get here.” But you know what?

It was worth the wait.





Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The longer you’ve been around on this planet, the more you realize how overused words like “amazing,” “incredible,” and “fantasic” are. So any discussion of any thing that involves those descriptions gets attended by red flags and flashing lights of every color. BUT! This really successful return after 30 years to the biggest music festival in the world requires some superlatives.

We played the smaller venue, and had more than 30,000 people. In 1984, the Brazilian art and music community especially made the wonderful and wise decision to make a special outreach to the world by inviting young musicians from every corner of the earth, especially rock and pop people to come and have a look at and listen to their most successful export—beyond coffee and bananas—The music and music culture of Brazil.

Until then, we knew very little beyond Carmen Miranda’s beautiful exposed midriff with a basket of fruit on her head and ‘hooleyhoo’ hands, singing a quick-paced samba, with laughing eyes. Young Brazilian musicians were fascinated by world music of every sort and were making their own outreach beyond samba and bossanova.

Personally, I should have been saying much more all along about how Brazilian music changed my life, and especially about my approach to music, and what some will consider some small legacy that I’ve been offering. My vocal percussions imitate the rhythms of Brazilian percussive instruments, often with an American backbeat.

Until 1964, I had been a Tony Bennett-type jazz singer, backed by a trio. All of that was extremely important in establishing real strong jazzy notions that culminated with the George Duke Trio at the Half Note in San Francisco between 1965 and 1968. With wide open eyes, both of us youngsters inhaled Jobim, Astrud, Mendes, the new Getz, and Brazilian culture. We were touched by the delicacies and subtleties not only in rhythms, but romantic notions of poetry and love (surely the most romantic language to sing in ever-Portuguese). And so as I told the audience last night and newspaper reporters at earlier times, I have taken you with me to Berlin and Rome and Paris, and it’s ok.

This time, I and the band were introduced by Ze Ricardo, one of the young lions of the traditional Brazilian music sound of samba and bossanova, who’s seriously reintroducing those special Brazilian roots. Moments later we were joined onstage by one of my heroes and surely a national treasure in Brazil, Marcos Valle. In 1967, started singing one of his songs, not knowing who the composer was, with my guitarist partner Julio Martinez, at Gatsby’s in Sausalito. The song was called “So Nice.” It had that gentleness and texture of “Girl From Ipanema.”

Personally for me at that time, every day of my life was Carnaval and “So Nice.” Soon I would leave my counseling career to do music full time, sink or swim. New life, new music, me and a guitar learning every Brazilian song we could. Almost reborn.

So here I was a couple of nights ago singing again a song I had sung before. Only this time, with the original composer and performer himself. All of this was a very lightheaded and dizzying kind of experience, with me standing here in front of an enormous audience of Brazilian music lovers. There was also a quick-tempo, very ‘wordy’ piece of music that I was just singing for the first time called “Crickets.” My anxiousness and nerves almost got absorbed by a big red full blood red moon that was just beginning a full eclipse. It won’t happen again for another 30 years.

Marcos and I and the band used up every available smile and laugh with a “Can you believe this?!” wonderment. This would be the first time for lots of these people to hear Take 5 and Boogie Down played live. And for many of them, it would be their first time hearing them ever at all. They had sung “I hope you don’t mind” in Your Song and now I was asking them to sing “Get my Boogie Down.” And after a couple times encouraging them, they got it with that new energy which passed easily among them as they stood shoulder to shoulder as far back as your eyes could see.

It was time to go and they were still clapping when we realized that we had time for one more. So we did We’re In This Love Together, and they even applauded the introductory instrumental part, and welcomed the opportunity to sing on the choruses. There were three jumbo screens, and a live broadcast on national Brazilian TV. Wow. Time for more superlatives!!!

Backstage was full of lots of guests and other artists, and some very important guests of mine. Junior, our promoter from last time, had a red-faced smile and grin that just glows—He was taking pride in every moment of another successful run for me in Brazil. Hello to Junior and his wonderful wife Ana Paula!

We rocked in Rio, and had a blast in Brazil. I hope we go back real soon. Obrigado!

Now, it’s off to Buenos Aires, Argentina!




Buenos Aires, Argentina

“The Paris of South America” they call it. We arrived to Buenos Aires in the middle of the night after a flight from Rio de Janeiro, and couldn’t see the architecture when we drove in. We were only amazed by the wide boulevard that we drove on to get through the city.

The next morning we awoke on show day and looked out the window to find that we were in a MAJOR port city. Out my window was a look at a very large inlet from the Atlantic Ocean, and a wonderfully bustling train yard. There were cargo trains and passenger trains and every kind of loading and unloading you can imagine. It was fun to wake up and see a beautiful sunny day filled with such great activity. My eyes especially got magnetically drawn to the great number of “Hamburg” box cars. That made an immediate connection for me to moments of the past.

I spent the day warming up, getting ready for the show night. Especially in fast visits, it’s important to have a routine: Grab some coffee, immediately start some low and slow vocalizing, gradually warming up throughout the day. Get some physical exercise in, and get packed up for the gig! The trip to the venue was particularly interesting for me.

Most typically, we will be in a hotel that is right next to the venue, or a short 5 minute drive. For whatever reason, our promoters had us playing at a performance hall that was a full hour drive from the hotel. I didn’t understand why until I got there, but that didn’t stop my assistant Patrick and me from marveling at the beauty of the different neighborhoods we drove through on the way. Recoleta, Villa Crespo, something about a Caballero— It was lighting up our imagination, the wonder of faraway places, the mystique of a foreign accent, the life of newly blooming spring flowers: My favorite time of the year!

Once we got to the venue, I understood, and the drive was worth it. The hall was newly renovated, combining state-of-the art trappings with an old-world feel. We came to find out that this was a well known, traditional theater in Buenos Aires that had hosted a long history of Argentinian stars, and international as well. So it felt like it was a hand-picked venue for me and the band. And come showtime, it was packed. I climbed up what seemed like a Tibetan monastery’s worth of stairs, finally getting to stage level from the dressing room, and the audience boomed with applause when we walked onstage.

We roared through a hit-packed set, with audience members enthusiastically singing along, and calling out requests throughout the night. I love this moment that John Calderon has found to step out of his regular formation and join me during Black & Blues. So often we as musicians get set in our ways and we need to be reminded that we are doing these shows LIVE for a reason. And it’s great moments like that that really jog you into the present— SO IMPORTANT for a performer, and for the audience.

At the end of the performance, the crowd started singing a futbol chant, over and over and over, and wouldn’t let us leave the venue without playing another one. And we figured out real quick what song they were looking for. “I can remember the rain in December, the leaves of brown on the ground.” Without any practice or preparation or planning ahead, the band whipped into Spain, and the crowd hurried right along for the ride. Really fun performance, and a very memorable FIRST visit to Argentina for me. I can not believe I have never been here before. On the other hand, we are beginning to welcome a new circumstance and phenomena in my life and career. And it is that… you guessed it. There are still new audiences to sing and play for! That’s fantastic. I’ll take as much of that as I can get. I need to get to Bangladesh… And Boise, Idaho! I know there are people in those places who know some Al Jarreau music. And hold on, I’m comin’.

The next day, just before leaving, a man named Michael stopped us on our way out of the hotel to give a gift, an incredible gift, and one worth mentioning. He has been involved with a jazz group, and arranged the Catholic Mass for big band jazz performance. Wow. What a project. And he gave me a gift of a Rosary that is not only beautiful, but blessed by none other than Pope Francis. Incredible. I’m fond of saying, you know… I’m not Catholic, but I sure think Pope Francis is saying a lot of things worth listening to. Amazing guy. Thank you, Michael, for this wonderful gift. I do, and will treasure it.

You’re right, Buenos Aires, it was too short. But we’ll be back soon, don’t you worry ‘bout a thing!







Newport Beach, California

Home to Los Angeles! Well, sort of. Newport Beach is a beautiful town on the coast about 90 minutes south of Los Angeles. They have the Newport Beach Jazz Fest here every year, and there’s a real solid group of jazz lovers all around this area. And so for me, although we’re not in downtown Los Angeles, this is my home since 1968. And sure enough, there’s an audience here who feels like relatives and family to me. And they’ve watched my life with interest and lots of love and affection. When I play anywhere in this neighborhood, it’s homecoming just like Milwaukee.

We were invited to play the Hyatt here this time, which we’ve done once before, and set up in their really intimate garden amphitheater. It’s built right into the side of a hill surrounded by the hotel and other buildings on the property.

We arrived in the morning after a 20 hour travel day from Buenos Aires, totally exhausted, and we welcomed the opportunity to sleep the rest of the day and have the night off. I even got to have a visit from my beautiful wife Susan. We so rarely get to have any visits together when I’m on the road and it made me so happy to have her there. We stayed in and ordered room service and just enjoyed each other’s company. A real highlight of this whole trip for me.

When we woke up the next day, Susan wanted some breakfast and I did something I almost never do on show day: I had a big breakfast. This hotel had a great kitchen cooking up some delicious pancakes, eggs, and charred crispy bacon, just like I like it. I sipped my coffee and enjoyed a pretty relaxed morning. Until my assistant came knocking and I was sucked right back into the reality of show day. I started my la-la-la-la-la’s, and soon we were off to sound check.

It’s always fun to do a sound check in an open air venue. You never know who’s going to pop their head out of the hotel window or come peeking around a corner to get a sneak preview of the concert. We ran a few bits of the set in our very limited time, and quickly we were off the stage, and I went off to my dressing room for more prep.

As my countdown to stage got smaller and smaller, I started to hear some marvelous music coming from the stage, floating through my dressing room window. Our opening act was a brilliant young singer named Andrea Miller. The whole band was impressed with her song selection, with her bandmates, arrangements, and her jazz sensibilities. I enjoyed listening the little bit I got to, and the band enjoyed their even closer look.

My time on the stage blew right by. The crowd was sold out, with standing room only, and barely any of that. The crowd was loud and fun, and I could tell the beer and wine were flowing free. Lots of shouting, lots of singing, lots of laughter from this none-too-reserved Orange County crowd. Great job by the promoters bringing together the right combination of performers and audience.

After the show, I signed CDs, and got to meet a whole lot of new friends, and some old friends, too. The next day, we packed up and headed out for an overnight flight, continuing our tour with a weeklong residency in Montreux. I’ll tell you about that real soon.

A special hello to Dave, our bellman, who took such great care of Susan and me while we were there. Yo, Daaaave! And also, of course, I was so happy to see Vance, and Karina, and Maria, and Ricardo come out to the show. Love you guys, see you home in LA!

Thanks, Newport!

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