This month marks the beginning of the 30th Anniversary of the famed Blue Note Jazz Club. For 30 years, this Greenwich Village staple has been the home of some the most musical icons ranging from Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Rosemary Clooney and Roy Ayers. Many of the greats of jazz, soul, and pop have graced the stage for what many music fans have hailed as the jazz “capitol of the world.” What better way to properly kick off the anniversary festivities is to have none other than jazz/R & B vocalist Al Jarreau perform in what would be his debut at The Blue Note. Al’s fifty years in the business has allowed him to earn seven Grammy-Awards and sold millions of records worldwide. With hits like “Mornin,” “Roof Garden,” “We’re In This Love Together” and “So Good,” Mr. Jarreau’s debut was a hit selling out every show during his weeklong engagement. Al also shared the stage with the legendary George Duke and his Trio featuring Grammy-Award winning bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spaulding and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. Bassist Michael Manson played with both Al and George while Miss. Spaulding performed at another engagement.
The performances were also on the heels of the new recording “Al Jarreau and the George Duke Trio, Live at The Half Note, Volume. 1.” This is the first of three vintage recordings that George is releasing when the two were both getting started in music when they performed in San Fransisco, California in the mid-1960’s. George had the material sitting in his closet for decades and decided to have Al listen to the material. After endless hours of mixing the material, George was able to come up with three discs of material. Volume 1 is the first of the next two discs that will be released in the next couple of years.
Al Jarreau is one of the few singers that has won the award in the R & B, pop, and jazz categories throughout his 50 years in the business. Jarreau has been able to take his unique “vocalese” style of singing and fuse it with the contemporary sounds of most current music styles. Al can be placed in annals of great vocalists like Joe Williams, Jon Hendricks, Johnny Mathis and Tony Bennett.
In 1976, Jarreau was signed to Warner Brothers Records under the tutelage of record producer, now seasoned record executive, Tommy LiPuma. Alwyn Lopez Jarreau was born on March 12th, 1940 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was the fifth of six siblings. Jarreau’s father was a strict minister and singer but instilled a strong religious background and performing while growing up.
While attending college, Jarreau would dabble in music. He sang alongside a young and progressive pianist while pursuing his masters degree in San Francisco by the name of George Duke, who years later would produce and tour with. This was during the mid-to-late 1960’s when the Bay Area was a hotbed of music. Al would also make the television and nightclub circuit that got him more experience as well as develop him as a better vocalist. Warner Brothers executives saw Jarreau perform at a club in 1975 and signed him. This was also the same year producer Tommy LiPuma signed saxophonist David Sanborn, guitarist and vocalist George Benson, and a new-comer named Michael Franks. 1976 proved to be a pivotal year for all these artists because Benson struck gold with is smash “Breezin” and Jarreau with his debut disc “We Got By.”
George Duke has been one of the most requested session musicians, producers, and musical directors over the last three decades. As a leader, Duke has recorded 40 projects with artists such as Jean-Luc Ponty, Stanley Clarke, Jill Scott, Billy Cobham, Milton Nascimento and Airto Moreira. As a producer he’s produced records for the likes of Miles Davis, Steps Ahead, Anita Baker, Rachelle Farrell, Regina Belle, Dianne Reeves, George Clinton and Jeffrey Osborne.
Duke’s role during the weeklong engagement at was both an exciting, but, also tedious as well. As the music director, he had to rehearse music of Al Jarreau, his music, and also Brenda Russell’s music. The chemistry between both Esperanza Spaulding and Terri Lyne Carrington were a match made in heaven. Considering this was the first time Miss. Spaulding played with George and saw the music the day of the Thursday performance, she played like she’s been in his band for years! Esperanza performed on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances. During his set, he performed many of his classics including “Sweet Baby,” “No Rhyme and No Reason,” and a medley of songs he produced and wrote on the monumental “Amandla” recording from Miles Davis.
Brenda Russell, the prolific singer/songwriter of such notable classics like “Piano In The Dark” and “If Only For One Night,” also headlined with the George Duke Trio on Thursday and Friday night at The Blue Note. Mrs. Russell’s performance was both stunning and captivating as George’s trio kicked in to overdrive with Russell’s “Walking In New York.” Fans really got an up close and personal take on the legendary songwriter’s music as well as her view on music. Both Brenda and George wowed the audience on “Piano In The Dark.”
The week proved to be a great success for The Blue Note as they kicked off their anniversary festivities. Mr. Jarreau stated: “I’ve wanted to play the Blue Note, but it wasn’t the right time. Under different circumstances and the right time, this was the perfect opportunity to perform with my good friend and musical counterpart.” Both Mr. Jarreau and Mr. Duke gave their fans the musical experience that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. Both of these masters performed both the straight ahead jazz and contemporary material satisfying their many diverse music fans. The fact that their latest recording “Al Jarreau and the George Duke Trio, Live at The Half Note, Volume. 1” represents how their careers have come full circle some 45 years later.
The Blue Note was the perfect venue to hold this monumental event. Congratulations on your 30 years on serving the world with some of the greatest music and hope you continue for another 30.
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