St Louis – Jazz at the Bistro

As I sat there, doing my morning gratitudes and looking out the window, I realized that we were just 200 yards from the gateway arch in Saint Louis, said to be the doorway to the Western United States, which early settlers traveled as they went west, from the great eastern cities. For me, it took a moment for this symbol and its significance to personally settle in, and give me that “Oh, wow” experience. Oh, wow, of course! Here we were in Saint Louis for two nights at the Bistro, introducing the Al Jarreau duo – Me and Joe Turano.  Joe and I will do our fifth and sixth outings as a duo here, in America.

This duo concept is not entirely new. Between 1968 and 1975, I had a lot of success with an Al Jarreau and Julio Martinez guitar/vocal duo, which has beginnings in Sausolito at Gatsby’s bar, then moved to LA to Dean Martin’s Deano’s, on Sunset Strip. You’ll remember “77 Sunset Strip!” A television show, with “Kookie Burns.” Then came a pianist, Richard Dworsky, to expand the sound with Rhodes at the Blabla Cafe, who was followed by Tom Canning, who played on the first four records. Since pre-Gatsby’s in San Francisco, I was incorporating the cabaca, a brazilian rhythm instrument, and thumping on the mic stand with my foot to get the bass sound. As elementary in scope as this may seem, we were getting a lot of music out of two people. All of this went away after the first record, “We Got By,” until recently.   Our eyes reopened to that format, and its amazing possibilities… simply put, intimacy and personal communication. Just the basic thing, in your face.

The wonderful Saint Louis connection occurred at a small institute of musical studies (especially jazz), with an adjacent performing studio called “The Bistro.” center is having a wonderful impact on the lives of Saint Louis youngsters. We came to have these realizations about The Bistro, and their outreach, and the tremendous support of both by local philanthropists, at about the time when Joe Turano and I began to look at each other and found ourselves falling more and more “in like” with the concept of a duo performing unit, as well as the Jarreau six piece band.

Late September seemed so far away when we made the booking. Suddenly, there it was. Just days away and too little rehearsing and playing of the duo repertoire… but there it was, opening night. I made my way to center stage, next to Joe and an grand piano and an electric keyboard. Dinner and drinks were being served and I was so close to the front tables, I could have helped myself to their wine! Almost nobody in the world has seen me in that setting. Over the two seventy five minute performances of the evening, we would talk about the beauty of that sort of intimacy. They got it.  Not all of the songs were brand new… “Better than Anything,” “Take 5,” “We Got By” are often in the regular band set.  But it’s quite a different listening experience when the performance is so simplistic and basic, as it is with the duo.

Over and over again, before this two nighter was through, folks were commenting, “Wow… what a personal experience… all those stories, Al… etc etc.” I could hardly talk with excitement, so I didn’t. You can be sure I was inhaling that wonderful reaction. I think we got something here, ladies and gentleman. Hello Fanny from Milwaukee and son. We grew up two blocks from each other. It was her first time hanging out with me like that.

Ok, everybody, I have to go home to Milwaukee for more gas, oil, lube, and a hug and a kiss! So watch out for the Al Jarreau Duo!!! Tis autumn.

-Al Jarreau

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