St. Louis

Great to be back in one of the great cities of the world, home to a long history of industry, manufacturing, trade and commerce, and home to all kinds of music, especially jazz. Thankfully, there’s been an audience for my music since my beginnings. My visits these days are not as frequent as before, but we’re workin’ on it, and these last two visits to Touhill are the beginnings of that.

We arrived the night before, woke up and hit the gym at 9am for a quick burn, a couple of hobo-sock coffee, and off we go to morning radio and TV. We visited Steve at KWMU on the campus of UMSL, and then with Jennifer on Channel 5. Thanks, you guys, good coffee and a good chat.

We’d been riding this morning with Phil, who teaches Jazz History at the University. Sitting next to him was John, an ex-DJ who now must be the city’s historian and tour guide. “Oh, that’s Busch Stadium, home of the Cards, and there’s the old cathedral, and the old courthouse.”

We played Touhill Performing Arts Center on the campus of University of Missouri-St. Louis… A return visit. We arrived at soundcheck and met a guy on staff backstage who looked just like a young Joe Louis, Curtis Brown. We laughed. He’s shy and embarrassed, but I discovered he was teammates with OJ Simpson on the Buffalo Bills. Wow! Not many people play NFL football.

We hit at 8:15, and the guys are a magnificent cohesiveness to be admired by the Packers and Mazerati, too. The audience was open-mouthed. I’d love to sit out front and listen. They could do it without me, you know. We closed the first half at 65 minutes with Boogie Down and “I gotta go to the bathroom, y’all.”

But there’s more fun in the second half, and by now, people are even more loose and comfy, and calling out songs, so I sang a little impromptu Alonzo, and a full on Favorite Things. The new “Rainbow Ride” program has a newish cool intensity with brief glimpses of the white-hot core through the blast furnace door. And somehow the improv vocal ad-libs of Chris and Joe and John punctuate and inflame the passing line like an Amen or Yeah, that’s right! This ain’t new but it’s better.

I chat about this venue and being so close to them that I can smell their perfume. No doubt this is a new and first-time experience for almost all of them. Usually it’s been much larger venues. An important part of surviving and staying alive as an artist is competing with the biggest and loudest performers and shows in the business, and finding yourself pulled into that approach, even against your instincts and basic feelings. And so, there are lots of people who don’t know the most important me: The close-up, intimate “Al Jarreau: Boy Singer.” That was on a placard announcing one of my first performances as a 5 year old!

Well here I am in the raw, a simple and lucky little boy singer from Milwaukee. Thank you, thank you so much, St. Louis. I’ll see ya in church.

Al Jarreau

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