Montreux on Tour – Los Angeles
Montreux on Tour
Bringing Down The House
in Los Angeles
September 1, 2000
by Paula Edelstein
Let me just break it down! The Smooth, Sexy, Summer Madness of the Montreaux Festival on Tour hit US shores August 4th in Chicago, Illinois and swept through 18 cities before kicking off a dynamic, fun-filled Labor Day Weekend for 1000s of Los Angeles jazz fans. The Montreaux Jazz Festival has caused a sensation for 34 years throughout Europe and Friday night that sensation filled the Universal Amphitheatre for nearly 4 hours as a packed house welcomed Al Jarreau, Roberta Flack, Joe Sample, David Sanborn, and The George Duke All Star Band. Call it the night fantastic because at show time, they owned the night!
Performing songs from his #1 Billboard Contemporary Jazz release, TOMORROW TODAY, Al Jarreau knows how to bring it on! From the moment he hit the stage, the crowd was on its feet. The fireworks Jarreau generated was worth the price of admission alone. He just sings it like he means it, inadvertently speaking volumes about social ills that abound around the world on the title track, “Tomorrow Today,” and exerting his continuing vitality and viability on “his jazz cocktail booster shot … the real deal tour.” Jarreau infused his performance with an endearing playfulness synthesizing his wide variety of artistic strategies and made for a soulful, sexy, organic, slyly mercurial musical experience with enough great songs to pervade one’s memory for many years. A rousing rendition of songs from his BREAKIN’ AWAY album also brought the house to its feet again as the maestro of jazz vocalese put on a show that is surely one of the greatest shows this year.
Perhaps it’s a case of like minds rather than mimicry, but like Jarreau, Roberta Flack has an admirable work ethic and an impressive discography spanning jazz, R&B, improv and collaborations with theatre, dance, film and the visual arts. Tonight the peak of a great tour was met with much appreciation as she sang “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” “Feel Like Making Love,” and songs from her CD, ROBERTA. Roberta Flack also played piano and got the crowd involved with her duet with Al Jarreau on “All The Way.”
Joe Sample has straddled both R&B and jazz contexts, playing in the early music circles with such luminaries as The Crusaders and more recently inviting vocalists such as Lalah Hathaway to his sing his musical ideas and take them down another avenue. Sample, even though improvising, can pick out the details and offer them to an audience without your knowing he’s done exactly that! On his new composition “Creole Eyes,” a song he wrote with David Sanborn, he exhibited the jazz piano finesse he’s widely recognized for and together with David Sanborn and Lennie Castro, Buddy Williams, Mike Manson the song was a very welcome contemporary jazz number.
David Sanborn’s sexy sax was as smooth as ever. Playing songs from his latest CD INSIDE, Sanborn embraced his musical stories and beautifully caressed them into shape with his saxophone. While this sort of musical interpretation might sound ordinary to die-hard straight-ahead aficionados, Sanborn’s mastery of his distinctive musical voice on the tenor saxophone is a truly beautiful experience. He employs circular breathing and alternate and polyrhythmic fingering patterns, producing among other things, multiphonics, or several notes at once, as well as other techniques to achieve a sonic personality unlike any other player in smooth jazz circles. The audience was enthralled as he laid into “Chicago Song,” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” with George Duke and Joe Sample on keyboards and acoustic piano and received a rousing ovation.
The George Duke All Star Band was a band of rapid action, of overtones each piercing each other, of gradual change within a series of alternating and mesmerizing groupings of sounds. Duke treated the crowd to a display of his classical, rock and jazz piano virtuosity. George Duke can dissect a note, with each part reaching a member of his band within just the right second. His almost paranormal relationship with Al Jarreau stems from their early days in Northern California at the Half Note Club in 1965 when they performed in the same band! More important, was their performance tonight and the synergetic effects of the live electronics and improvisation during “Tomorrow Today.” Duke performed a medley of hit songs from his early career including “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” “On The Wings of Love,” “Stay With Me Tonight” and “Sweet Baby” a major hit with Stanley Clarke, brought the house down with his “No Rhyme No Reason” and the funk anthem “Mothership Connection/We Want The Funk.” George Duke was at home in Los Angeles and by the thunderous, standing ovation that he received, he should know by now that he can come home again!! And again!!
The Montreaux Festival on Tour is a cool happening that is also a historic moment in jazz. The ensemble of Al Jarreau, Roberta Flack, Joe Sample, David Sanborn and The George Duke All Star Band is entertainment at its best. For America, its arrival is like the arrival of the Oldsmobile Aurora, the pianoforte, the computer or the Internet — exciting, varied and essential!! Welcome to the USA, we hope we’ve made you welcome!