St. Petersburg, Russia

We’re up at 4:30 in the morning (wow) to make a 6:45 train departure for St. Petersburg. I’ve been anticipating this since this train ride got announced in our schedule. A three hour train ride through the icy, snowy Russian countryside, in comfortable cars, and a simple train-appropriate breakfast. And here I am (we are) headed for a concert that I’ve anticipated for more than 20 years.

What I mean is that when Russia became a possibility at all for me, St. Petersburg and Moscow were equal must-dos. Moscow is the political capital, but St. Petersburg, with Catherine The Great’s Hermitage museum, is surely one of the capital cities of the world for Arts. The Louvre in Paris and maybe the Guggenheim in New York might rival it. As we drive into the city, I can’t help thinking how different from Moscow it feels. The architecture is less random and crowded. I feel a finesse that could be inspired by that great museum and the kind of people it attracts as residents and students and visitors.

I’ve been pleading to get booked here forever it seems to me. And I’ll tell you now, the whole affair including the concert with this new audience was so satisfying and wonderful. Somehow my anticipatory sense of how it would be was spot-on-on target. The accuracy heightened by a performing situation that was really normal now today. No cameras, no thirty-foot distance from band to first row of seats. So natural and un-staged. I knew it was going to touch the sky. And we did.

In never getting here until now, I had always sensed a question mark amongst our business partners over here about whether there was an audience for me in this city. All those questions were put to rest. The audience sat staring and open-mouthed as the band played like an enchanted Oz, sparkling solos from Turano who gave this audience something they’ve never heard, unless it was Shorter a few weeks ago or ‘Trane a few decades ago. Calderon gave them Klugh and Segovia, mixed with Di Meola—I added my voice. When Larry Williams stops playing keyboards and picks up the flute, you have to shake your head and start talking to yourself. We have never played such a seamless transition into Mark Simmons’ drum solo, that went even beyond this new level of playing that Mark has recently reached. Front rows were full of under-30s. Men, women, and teenagers—Great.

When we finally left the stage after a couple of encores, we just stood there in the wings and laughed and giggled. Nothing to say. Promoter Maxim was quietly thrilled. Oh, yes, there’s an audience here for Al.

The next morning was early up again for a trip to the airport. As we entered the hotel lobby, there was a man I recognized from 2nd or 3rd row center, my 10 o’clock, and there he was in the hotel this morning with a painting that he’s done of me. It’s so surprising and touching that I couldn’t speak… I just sat down and wept. It kept burning in my mind that for some large chunk of time, I was off doing what I do, and here was somebody way over in St. Petersburg, Russia, pouring their heart and soul into a really good painting of me, and I never knew.

Thanks, Max!

Thanks, Max!

Well there it is. That’s the microcosm. A whole bunch of heartfelt stuff going on for Al Jarreau and I never even knew.
Thank you, St. Petersburg. What a wonderful night.

Love, Al

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