Fifteen months ago in the summer I had a little heartburn, and spent awhile in a Marseilles, France hospital with Dr. Bonnet. We cancelled seven concerts, but I got up and walked out of that clinic, and into a recording studio for an eight-hour recording session to complete the duet I recorded with Deodato, “Double Face.” Then I went and did the last three dates of the tour.

So when we began this past summer’s six-week tour, there were unspoken question marks in the air… And in my own head as much as anywhere… Prayer is some high power stuff you guys. It is the constant morning, noon, and night visualizing of what you want to be and what you want to take place and what you want to happen at some future time. This mechanism builds skyscrapers and golden gate bridges. And it puts men on the moon and high jumpers over 7-foot bars. They keep seeing it and rehearsing it in their minds morning, noon, and night. And this can be referred to as prayer. Or creative visualization. And it’s the only way to get there from here. And it’s through your thoughts and thinking about what you want to have in your future. I did a lot of visualizing and picturing and moving with determination and positive attitude. Audience responses were great. As strong as ever. What a lesson. ‘Twas Summer.

I normally comment on almost all of the concerts that we do, but I’m so late that I’ll simply pick a few that really demand some personal statements from me. The city of Munich has had a wonderful festival summer of music and jazz for years, but the budget was just not there for a festival this year; a disappointment to a real music loving city. Thank God for the Bayerischer Hof, which continued their tradition of hosting several performances that normally happen during Synclavier Sommer Festival. The response was nothing short of tremendous. Screaming and yelling from before the start. Maybe we were making up for some of the music that got missed last summer. I’ll never forget our hostess and organizer of the music in the hotel. She had the look of a little girl who just got a pony for Christmas. The audience was over the moon. Thank you Munich once again. I’ve said this so many times. May it continue, and continue, and continue.

France has been a home for jazz and jazzers since the 20’s. They know it, love it, play it, perform it as well as Americans, and I must say promote it more. In my earlier career, I traveled to a greater number of the provinces beyond Paris and the Cote d’Azur. Something happened in more recent years that I’m now trying to make a correction for that with an old friend Bernard Dulau. He was working for my first promoter, Francis Dreyfus, during my first tour in Europe. He was a great help with his big smile. Bernard Dulau and I have taken the attitude of “let’s start all over.” We are committed, Bernard Dulau and I, to reconnecting with the provinces… Champagne, Normandy, Burgundy, Toulouse, etc…. all of France, as in the beginning. We do not get to these places enough. And so now, here we come. Bring your children. This is the real thing. Come and see… We are finding lost relationships and new friends with greater hopes and high certainties for the future.

One of the great festivals that we regularly attend is in Juan-Les-Pins… It always sneaks up on you as you drive along this country-like pathway, and suddenly you’re in the city with a hairpin left turn at a 45-degree uphill angle. And then suddenly like a Roman charioteer you burst into this gargantuan Roman amphitheater, maybe 200 feet at the top. Talk about intimidating for any gladiator, Shakespearian actor, singer from Milwaukee, or Pisa, Italy.

When I was here a couple of years ago I met Bobby McFerrin’s son with his beautiful, wild hairdo. We do several interviews again this time and bang we’re on stage. This audience is always so enthusiastic that almost on their own they carry the show and make the performance. This was no exception. Oh to be sure the band played some many hot licks in “You Don’t See Me” and “Sweet Potato Pie” much to the delight of so many people who had not heard this music ever before. The hairpin turn feels better as we leave. And we’re relaxed and happy after a strong performance at a great shrine.

Barcelonette, the city where I had the hiccup heard around the world in 2010, and 12 months later I’m back, full tilt boogie. Threatening to set fire to their neat little lawn and lawn chairs. These beautiful people had sat for a year anxiously wondering whether last year’s headliner who was taken away in an ambulance would be in fact all right, and would he ever return to sing.

I didn’t have to say a word. They stood up when they recognized that it was me. And we all just quietly stood there nodding our heads with little smiles on our faces. Some of us had big smiles. Their students are teenagers and study and practice and play in this country, woodsy mountains setting. Another world. I’ll bet they are getting some great work done. They should be. Thanks for the welcome back Barcelonette, and our first real meeting.

Marciac. Wow! Thank God for us finding ourselves at this classic French Jazz Festival. It’s huge. And this is my first time! Our hotel is a tiny hotel in a small country town of a few thousand people. And they said it’s the closest town with a hotel or motel to the festival, but we still had to drive more than an hour and fifteen minutes to the festival grounds. This means that they must be drawing people from lots of provinces that are probably closer to an hour drive. I knew this would be a special day when, just at the edge of town, I passed by a building that for whatever wonderful or strange reason had a huge mural of the cover of the book “Le Petit Ponce” by Saint-Exupery. I was immediately transported to a wintery classroom in Ripon where we were studying “Le Petit Prince” as a first or second reading French lesson. So romantique. This moment of déjà vu as seen through the back window of a car moving past the side of a building in the French countryside. That just absolutely took me away to the time of a 20-year old Al Jarreau in my new hometown Ripon College, Wisconsin and all its bedazzlements.

And then believe it or not: Pow! And fields and fields of millions of sunflowers. A Van Gogh mirage. I was thinking to myself “Wow I love this but what is happening here.” I think tonight at Marciac is going to be quite special. We arrive at dusk and it’s all white tents backstage. Well organized and a bit dream-like.

I could spend time telling you about yet another great band performance. And it’s a lead pipe cinch that we made some new friends from these nearby French provinces. If anyone can understand and appreciate this music that we’re doing these days from the earliest records, it is the French. The French are amongst the earliest die-hards. What I’d really like to take a moment to describe to you was a fantasia-like closure to this already surreal day. Dianne Reeves with two guitars. What a concept! What courage. I’ve been in that neighborhood myself, suddenly there’s a lot more empty space to deal with than there was with a full on trio or more. Her choice of material was excellent and when she took the audience into some “shonuff” blues singing they got a real treat, rarely heard, and more rarely from her. I was backstage doing interviews, but could hardly concentrate because Dianne was taking me away. I told her that she and I should do something together. Her cousin George Duke would be the obvious connection as producer. What a day. And then it all jumped even more wonderland surreal when an old friend, Franky March, from Bernard Dulau old days appeared out of the mist at the hotel on Avenue Hoche. We laughed and lingered until it was time to go. Then I took a wonderful long ride back through the sunflowers and passed the little prince. Thank you Marciac. Thank you France. Thank you fantasia. Love Al Jarreau.

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