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Sunday Afternoon Jam
at Chateau Ste Michelle

September 4, 2000
by Stephen H. Watkins, Sr.

After driving three hours and spending 1/2 hour parking and riding the shuttle, we arrived at 5:25 … 25 minutes late. But once we got there, all that was forgotten…the Chateau Ste Michelle winery was the perfect venue, the sky was blue and cloudless, and the temperature was just right. This was the perfect day for what was arguably the best concert to come to the area this summer. People were spread all over the hillside overlooking the stage, with rolling green hills and the Chateau itself in the background. Al Jarreau, Roberta Flack, Joe Sample, Layla Hathaway, David Sanborn, and The George Duke All Star Band were scheduled to appear and anticipation ran high.

The sound and VIP tents were plopped right in the middle of the hill. The food and wine sales tents were lined up along the very top of the hill. The people were crammed in everywhere else… walking around, on blankets, folding chairs, coolers and sometime even on the ground. As we walked in, the announcer was anouncing the entrance of Al Jarreau and Joe Sample, who performed tunes from Al’s new release ‘Tomorrow Today’. After two songs, George Duke and David Sanborn joined them on stage and broke into a lively version of ‘Camel Island’, also accompanied by Ronnie Castro on percussions and Buddy Williams on drums.

Duke and Sanborn then left, and Layla Hathaway came on to sing two songs from Joe Sample’s new release. ‘Fever’ was particularly well received by the crowd. Al Jarreau then rejoined Layla to perform a duet of ‘Summertime’, accompanied by Joe Sample and David Sanborn. This ‘rotating ensemble’ thing went on for aother half-hour or so, performing various hits by David Sanborn, The Crusaders, Joe Sample and Al Jarreau.

Then George Duke and his all-star band took over for a while, starting out with a medely of songs from his new CD ‘Cool’ (which comes out in October) featuring Lori Perri singing background. Then he got down to business playing various tunes that he wrote in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. After talking about how he and Al Jarreau played together at the Halfway Club many moons ago, Jarreau came back and sang with the band. Duke continued through the years, playing songs he wrote both for himself and for others, including the immensly popular Jeffrey Osborn hit ‘On the Wings of Love’. George ended the ‘Duke Band’ part of the set by getting the crowd clapping and singing the ever-so-funky ‘Reach For It’.

Joe Sample and Layla Hathaway came back for another single, then Al Jarreau came back as well to perform the crowd-rousing “Morning”. Finally Al sang his sweet classic ‘Since I Fell for You’ accompanied by George Duke and Joe Sample on keyboards, Layla Hathaway and Lorri Perri on vocals, and behind it all was David Sanborn’s horn, playing off of Al’s vocalizations, sending chills through the crowd. A wonderful closer. The show then ended at 8:00 sharp, leaving everyone satisfied yet somehow wanting a little more.

The rotating ensemble that performed here was one of the best groups of musicians I have ever seen perform that way and a little bit MORE would have been nice, but what we got was one of the best shows I’ve seen in years. My only regret is missing the first 25 minutes.

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