Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap this: Five nights ago, two nights away

Last Friday, Mrs. S. and I again made the drive – thankfully not in the rain this time – to Birmingham, to visit the Alys Stephens Center to see,

The one...
The only...

Otherwise known as Al Jarreau. 78 years old, still singing up a storm with his vast repertoire, iconic hits, and a band of youngsters and oldsters that can make your heart race. He told the story (twice) of how his first record became a hit because even though nobody knew his name, they knew “that song by Algernon”, (young kids: google “Flowers for Algernon”), and that helped him to sell records. So, let me give you the short version of the review of the show. But first, a shot of me and Mrs. S. prior to the start.

He sang all his hits, and he sang a few other people’s hits, like The Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home” and Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” (which originally didn’t have lyrics). His bass player, Chris Walker, sang one of his songs that will soon be a hit (phenomenal stuff) and all in all, it was just one hell of a show. Al’s got a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, and deservingly so. It was a great show. Imagine a 78 year old jazz singer on this stage:

Anyway, I’ve scratched another legend off my “must see living legends of jazz list”. Next up is Wynton Marsalis, who I “saw” two years ago, but due to the down front, below the stage, orchestra pit seats in Huntsville, although I sat within twenty feet of him, I never, not once, actually saw Mr. Marsalis, this Friday we’ll actually get to meet and greet him. Expect many autographs, pictures, and memories to adorn these pages shortly after that.

Five days ago, Al Jarreau, two days from now, Wynton Marsalis. Not bad for someone who’s as late to jazz as me. Not bad at all.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Another all-around musical genius, unfortunately largely ignored by the good people of Alabama

Mrs. S and I drove through the rain (why does it always rain when we have a concert out of town to go to?) last night to see Edgar Meyer and the world premiere of his third concerto for double bass and orchestra. It was doubly challenging because I was still feeling the effects of a delayed return flight from Mexico that left me with an eight-hour, beer-laden layover, but I was feeling okay after dinner. (Turtle soup and straight rum to the rescue – try that next time your hangover threatens to turn into a cold.)

For those of you who don’t know Edgar Meyer, go ahead and google him now (then come back and finish reading).
Edgar Meyer, in concert (not the concert described)
 The guy’s famous. Played with all the big names: Joshua Bell, Bela Fleck, Yo Yo Ma, etc. His third concerto, commissioned by the Alabama Symphony, was for some reason performed by a stripped down version of the orchestra. And, the hall was less than half full. The people who were there looked even more tired than I felt.

But Mr. Meyer’s piece was fascinating. He introduced it by saying, “It’s 22 minutes long. There’s a 7-minute first section...a 7-minute second section...a 7-minute third section, and somewhere there’s another minute in there.” He also said he wrote his first concerto 20 years ago, his second ten years ago, and he hopes this, his third, is his last (!). His bass playing was flawless. The performance was captivating, and I was happy to have been privileged to be among the first to hear it performed. The audience clapped, he took a bow, and that was it. Then the orchestra hacked their way through a sullen Shostakovich piece (well, Shostakovich’s pieces are all sullen, aren’t they?), the first time I can honestly say they did not sound very good at all, and then we drove home.

I saw and heard history, and hardly anyone knows it. Now that all the readers of my blog know it, oh, never mind.