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“Jazz Monthly Feature Interview” Al Jarreau

 

Smitty: Joining me at Jazz Monthly. Com one of the most incredible singers to ever grace the stage. His music blissfully transcends the format. He has just joined George Benson to produce a wonderful project that is a plethora of explosive grooves and dynamic lyrics. It’s called Given’ It Up. Please welcome Multi-Grammy award winning, the amazing and so cool, Al Jarreau! How are you Al, welcome to Jazz Monthly.

 

Al Jarreau (AJ): Thank you, Smitty. It’s great to talk with you again.

 

Smitty: Same here my friend. What a great new record!

 

 

AJ:  Thank you…we put it together in record time, so to speak, trying to take advantage of this new union of Monster Cable with Concord Records who formed a kind of partnership with Noel Lee at Monster Cable.  Do you know that group?

 

Smitty: Absolutely, Wow!

 

AJ:  Yes, they make high end wiring and cable, and they’re just a huge company with 25,000 outlets where Monster Cable is sold around the world.  They’re absolutely a major company. Noel loves music, wanted to start his own record company, but decided to partner with people who know the record business and went to the best….to Concord, and said “Look, let’s get together and do this,” and the “this” that they’re doing is they’ve built this Surround Sound System 5.1 High Definition theater-like Surround Sound that goes on the market just recently these days, and they’re using this record that we’ve done and that’s been mixed in that….Surround Sound kind of way.  They’re using it to demonstrate that sound and they’re gonna sell this record at those locations where they’re demonstrating it.

 

Smitty:  What a cool concept.

 

AJ:  So it’s a new way of marketing product and stuff, and we wanted to be the first in this new…how should I describe it?  New partnership.

 

Smitty:  Yeah. The sound is incredible! 

 

AJ:  Yes it is.

 

Smitty: Okay, who came up with this idea of you and George (Benson) collaborating together?  Who called who about this project?  Were you guys sitting around having a glass of wine and said “Hey, let’s do something together”?

 

AJ:  No, it’s was not me or George. It was the guy who produced the record. George signed with Concord, oh, I don’t know exactly how long ago, but it’s close to a year ago….and they hadn’t figured out what the project was going to be. I began talking to Concord because I had finished my deal with GRP….and was out looking around for a new deal, and John Burk, a producer over there who has done great work at Concord with artists began looking at George and I and thinking “Hmm, things that make you go hmm.”  Called us on the phone, said “Come over and talk with me, you guys.  I have this idea,” and began laying it out, talking about “What I think would be fantastic (Soft spoken)...”  He talks like that in voices.  But he said “This is what I envision.  This is my dream.  George, you do something, a classic of Al’s and feature the guitar doing it.  Al, you take something classic of George’s” and I said “I know what it is already.  I’ll do a lyric for ‘Breezin.’”  “Fantastic.  You mean, you’ve started a lyric?”  “Yes, I’ve started a lyric for ‘Breezin.’”  “Oh, that’s wonderful.”  And the ideas grew from there, Smitty, grew from there.

 

Smitty:  Wow. It was meant to be.

 

AJ:  Yes. He also said “We need you to do some classics, but let’s not make it a bebop record.  You guys are not beboppers because we’re gonna take flak from beboppers ‘cause it’s not a bebop record.”  (Both laughing.)  “But just do what you do.  Your audience is a broad audience of R&B and pop people, and you two guys together, this is a lead pipe cinch.  What do you think?” (Laughs.)

 

Smitty:  Yeah, man. Just listening to you describe that gives me a chill.  I mean, ‘cause when I first heard it, I said “Okay, I’ve gotta find out who came up with this great idea.”  So you tell John I said he is a brilliant dude.

 

AJ:  Yup, yup.  You know, the thing is that, I sit around and I have an idea. Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to sing with the London Symphony, great idea. Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to sing with the Count Basie Orchestra? Great idea, lovely idea. Oh, I’d like to sing with Luciano Pavarotti, you know?

 

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

 

AJ:   But when somebody with the means and the idea suggests something and they’ve got a record company behind them, it’s more than an idea.  It’s feasible, it’s doable. And in one second it takes a major leap to the real….to a doable thing and that’s what it was. And George and I looked at each other and went “Yeah, yeah, we can do this.”

 

Smitty:  Yeah, and you know what?  I said to myself….and perhaps you both said the same thing….I said “Why didn’t I think of this?” or “Why didn’t somebody do this before now?”

 

AJ:  Yeah, yeah.

 

Smitty:  “I said this is just such, like you said, a lead pipe cinch. This should’ve been done ten years ago.”

 

AJ:  That’s exactly right, that’s exactly right, and we had this “Why didn’t this happen…why didn’t you do this earlier?”  When we talked about the last record, my last record, the Accentuate the Positive record, and me and Tommy LiPuma coming together with Al Schmitt and doing a jazz project, and that’s what Accentuate the Positive was, a jazz project, not a bebop project, but really the first jazz project that I had done. While I’m called a jazz singer, 98% of my music is R&B and pop, and I slip some jazz in there underneath, some jazzy phrasings, and so I’m known as a jazz singer. And so, yeah, you’re absolutely right.  It could’ve happened a thousand years ago and why didn’t I think of that?  A whole bunch of people will be saying that.

 

Smitty:  Yeah, man.

 

AJ:  Yeah, but it takes more than the notion flitting through your head.

 

Smitty:  Yeah.

 

AJ:  Somebody’s got to say “Hey, we are a record company and I think this kind of project would be fantastic.  I’m gonna call in-house and ask George what they think about that. We can begin this Monday,” and we did. We blocked out the time. George and I were still on tour. We did a record in five weeks.

 

Smitty: That’s amazing!

 

AJ:  In five weeks. We had to. George and I were both leaving for summer tour. We did the record in April. 

 

Smitty:  Man oh man.

 

AJ:  Man oh man is right. It was painful.  I was out of town when the record got mixed.  Al Schmitt took the record and started mixing it, sent us mp3 versions of mixes.  “No, Al.  No, no, no.  You totally missed the…and where’s the shaker?  And that line where I’m (singing).  Hey, that’s gotta be louder. That’s the central part of the song.”  “Okay, I’ll work on that.”  It was absolutely bloody nuts and we did the record, Smitty.  (Both laughing.) Al Schmitt, who did not record the record, he was not the recording engineer.  We asked him to mix because he’s a great mixer of records like George. He mixed my record and mixed George’s records. A brilliant Grammy-winning mixer, and in fact the guy who you probably remember did my first record…recorded and mixed my first record. 

 

Smitty:  Yeah, Schmitty is a bad boy. He’s got some serious juice. I love what he did with Gladys Knight just recently with the Before Me album.  Unbelievable.

 

AJ: Oh, bless her heart.

 

Smitty:  Yes.  So, with Givin’ It Up the sound is distinctively up there.  It’s different.  You recognize it right away.  Because when you came in with that scat thing on “Breezin’” right away, I mean, it was automatic. This is something different.  This is really cool.

 

AJ: Yes.

 

Smitty:  It’s just got that crisp, real, raw, in your face…

 

AJ:  Edgy.

 

Smitty:  Yeah.

 

AJ:  (Laughs.)

 

Smitty:  Oh, I love it, man.  I love it.

 

AJ:  (Laughs.)  I’m so glad.

 

Smitty: I turned the volume up a little bit ‘cause I wanted to get up in it, you know?

 

AJ:  Yeah, mm-hmm.  (Both laughing.)

 

Smitty:  So I’ll tell you right now, Al, you, George and all the guys at Concord, Monster, John, Noel, all of ‘em, you have my full endorsement.  (Laughs.)

 

AJ:  Well, bless your heart. That’s great. I will say it.

 

Smitty:  Breezin’….a great selection for the first song on the album ‘cause it just grabs you, it’s so magnetic!

 

AJ:  Right.

 

Smitty:  You know, “Come and get it ‘cause this is just the tip of the iceberg of what you’re gonna hear on the rest of this album.”

 

AJ:  That’s right. It makes that kind of opening statement that you know this one.

 

Smitty:  Yes.

 

AJ:  Here it is.  You know this one, but check it out. You haven’t heard it this way and we bet you’re gonna like this one too. Yeah, and we had some great guest, huh?

 

Smitty:  I’ll say. When I put the record on, after I kinda calmed down from listening to  “Breezin’” I grabbed the liner notes and I started reading and it’s like a lineup for about three or four summer festivals of headliners. And that speaks volumes.  I mean, that is a tremendous statement as to the respect that both of you have earned in this business.

 

AJ:  That’s exactly right. For those people to come out and help us make it a kind of contemporary family musical statement from a lot of contemporary family…music family people today. They helped George and I make the statement on Givin’ It Up and it really speaks volumes itself about the respect that we enjoy in the industry and people wanting to be part of it and help make a kind of “today” musical statement.

 

Smitty: Yes, and not just the respect that they have for you and George as musicians and entertainers but as people and what you stand for….over the years. Because we all know what you cats are made of and I’m just stoked that you two have put this together along with all the great people with the upfront ideas and put this whole thing together and to pull all these incredible artists together is a great thing.

 

AJ:  Yeah, yeah. And it doesn’t feel contrived. When you look at that list of people just on its own, you get the feeling it’s contrived and it might be forced. But when you listen to what they did….and not all of those people are everywhere on the record. We put them in places to make the statement that comes out of their best work that fits in a certain place on the record.  “We should have a solo in this spot that’s like….no, not a sax solo….we want a trumpet solo.  Well, why don’t we call Chris Botti to do that?”  (“Let It Rain”) “Hey, good idea!”  “Think he’ll do it?  Hey, man, worth the call.”  “Let’s call Stanley Clarke.  We need someone to come play upright on this and get that upright bill.  Let’s call Stanley.  I’m gonna see if he’ll come and help us.”  And Patrice Rushen, basic trio, the recording trio, she was part of it.

 

Smitty: Nice!

 

AJ:  (Laughs.)

 

Smitty:  And isn’t she fantastic, man?

 

AJ:  Ahhh, such a sweetie pie.

 

Smitty:  Yes indeed and loaded with talent.

 

AJ:  Loaded with talent and just a sweetie pie, I’m telling you. You come in the studio and you see her and you gotta go over and hug her.  (Laughs.)

 

Smitty:  Yes indeed, yes.

 

AJ:  Yeah.  And Sir Paul McCartney.  (Laughs.)

 

Smitty:  Yes. Al, please share that story. I know the story, but I want all the fans to hear this story about Paul McCartney coming in and doing a song with you cats on the album, Givin’ It Up.

 

AJ:  So we’re at the old Charlie Chaplin Studios that became A&M Records and on those movie studio grounds there are several recording studios, probably eight or ten on the grounds there, so there are people walking around, you know, recording. You might run into anybody there.  Sure enough, “God, you’ll never guess who I just saw. I just saw Paul McCartney.”  He was recording a record and he’s sitting out there having a coffee on the deck (both laughing) and he comes in the studio, comes in our studio looking for George and wanting to say hi to me, but he and George know each other.  George did a record called The Other Side of Abbey Road.

 

Smitty:  Yes.

 

AJ:  And those guys fell in love with George.  Well, more in love with George.  Anyone who has played guitar and gets beyond their fourth lesson knows about George Benson.  There are very few guitar players in history who have played what George can play. And so he came in there, he and George are hugging and jumping up and down like little school kids who haven’t seen each other since summer vacation. And he greets me warmly.  “You did some wonderful charity work with my wife.  Hi, Al.  How you doing?  Great to see you guys. You’re working on a project together?  Oh, that’s fantastic, man.  Oh, that’s fantastic.”  And George says “Paul, come and sing on this song.”  (“Bring It On Home To Me”)  “Do you believe the bloody cheek of this guy?  Ha-ha-ha-ha!  I’m trying to do me own album on this date and he’s asking me to come and sing on this record.”

 

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

 

AJ:  We laughed so hard, I couldn’t believe George did that.  “George, are you crazy?”  (Both laughing.)  “George, have you lost your very mind?”  Two days later Paul comes in the studio and says “Okay, I’m ready.”

 

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

 

AJ:  “Okay, I’ll do it.”  And sang it down once.  George asked him to sing it down again and then George asked him to sing it down a third time, and I just can’t believe…George ought to be a politician.  (Both laughing.)  I saw George just so smoothly with that best beg in his eyes that you have ever seen and Paul responded.  “We’re so close to greatness here, man.  If you give me just one more take, I know that we’re gonna have something that you’re gonna be so proud of on this record, Paul.  What do you think?  Can you do it one more time?”  “All right, let’s go.  All right.”

 

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

 

AJ:  Man, it still brings tears to my eyes looking at George’s face.  All of a sudden we’ve got a studio full of people who can’t believe that Paul McCartney was there….they came from other studios in the building on the property and they’re in the recording booth being quiet and trying to stand back out of the way so as to not be seen and make a scene and make Paul self-conscious.  This is a moment in history that no one can believe, and when people read what you write about this, they’ll go “Nah, that stuff didn’t happen.”

 

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

 

AJ:  “Al lied.  Come on, Al.  Come on, Al.  Stop lying.”  (Both laughing.)  George asked him to do it a third time.  You should’ve seen the look on George’s face while Paul is singing.  He looks like he’s four years old.

 

Smitty:  Oh my goodness.

 

AJ:  I swear to God.  He looks four years old.  I’ve never seen a look on his face like that before or since, and the smile, the smile, it was such pure delight and joy.  It was Christmas morning and the favorite toy had just been opened and that lasted for 40 minutes while Paul sang.

 

Smitty:  Wow, that’s incredible. And the track is incredible.

 

AJ:  Unbelievable.

 

Smitty:  Man, and with no pun intended, but he brought it home to me.  (Laughs.)

 

AJ:  Yeah, he brought it home.  He gave it, man. He was classic Paul. With everything from “oh,” from his “oohs,” you know….that existed in “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”  (Both laughing.)

 

Smitty:  Yes sir.

 

AJ:  And Rocky Raccoon, you know, brought that “ooh” and that voice that has all of that character in it that we came to love and associated with.

 

Smitty:  Yes. So now tell me about the songs.  I mean, did you both get together on song selection or did John already have that worked out?  Because these are all great songs.

 

AJ:  The only thing that John did in that regard was say “You guys just do comfortable songs.”  Well, we’re all sitting there in his office and the first thing is “I would love for you to do each other’s material.”  That was the first idea and I said “Hey, I’m ready.  I got a start on…”  Well, actually, it was my wife in the process.  I was sitting and talking on the telephone to somebody about the project after one of our first meetings and she came in and put a note on my lap while I’m sitting there talking and the note said “Finish ‘Breezin’ and ‘Six to Four.’”  Do you know “Six to Four”?

 

Smitty:  Oh yeah.

 

AJ:  Oh, hey, I started a lyric on “Six to Four” too.

 

Smitty:  Wow.

 

AJ:  And this was back in the seventies I started those lyrics.  And I didn’t use the lyric from that period.  I wanted something fresh for “Breezin’”. I wanted to do that and John suggested that George do something of mine and George had wanted to think about that for a while and, you know, I don’t have many classics beyond “We’re in This Love Together” and “Mornin’”….

 

Smitty:  What?!

 

AJ:  Yeah, I don’t, you know, I don’t have a list of 15 songs that someone could pick from that folks would say “Oh, that’s Al Jarreau and that’s a song known.”  No, no.  George has got a list that reads like the Encyclopedia Britannica.  (Laughs.)

 

Smitty:  Yeah, he’s got a list.  He’s definitely got a list.

 

AJ:  George did a little…a lot more recording than I have. 

 

Smitty:  Yeah, but you’ve got some classics too, brother.

 

AJ:  Anyway, George thought for a while and came up with “Mornin’” and came up with this great arrangement.  And Michael Broening helped us with the arrangement….what he came up with for “Mornin’” and what you hear, you know, had just a different kind of feel.

 

Smitty:  Yeah, man.  It’s sweet, though.

 

AJ:  It kind of felt different than the way I laid it out on my record.  Then we’re sitting in John Burk’s office and it is around the first or second meeting that we’ve had about this, and George says “Al, man, there’s some things that people love, some songs that have become classics.  They’re new classics.  Just think about what we have.  I think if we did ‘Summer Breeze’…” I went “Whew.”  And then when he mentioned “Every Time You Go Away”….I said “George, I wanna hug you.”

 

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

 

AJ:  That’s the kind of openness in thinking that we need.

 

Smitty:  Yeah.

 

AJ:  These things you’re absolutely right.  If we can give a credible reading to those pieces of music and put our stamp on it, hey, we’re home.  Those people are gonna eat that stuff up, and even if we don’t sell a gazillion records, it’ll be a classic because we took those classic pieces of music and did really good work with it, and we did. So, you know, I’m predicting here….  (Laughs.)  I’m a little afraid, but I’m making the prediction that this record will be a milestone for us and, I don’t know, maybe some sort of little classic coming together of artists who’ve been around a long time and who have real stature in the industry. And it’ll go down as a kind of moment.

 

Smitty:  Absolutely, man. I’ve already come to that conclusion and I can’t wait for others to hear this and get their comments because this is incredible music.

 

AJ:  Yeah.  And the material….We had to have some arrangements and Larry Williams laid hands.

 

Smitty:  Yeah, man.

 

AJ:  Bad Larry Williams.  He’s my keyboard player.

 

Smitty:  Yeah, he’s a bad boy.

 

AJ:  He said “Okay, let me work on this” and put together that “Summer Breeze” arrangement.

 

Smitty:  Sweet, ain’t it?

 

AJ:  He gave George all of that room to play and those different changes that you hear in there, those jazz classic, those jazz changes….That’s deep.

 

Smitty:  It is, man.

 

AJ:  (Laughs.)

 

Smitty:  It totally is. And what beautiful scats on there too.

 

AJ:  Yeah.  “Don’t Start No Schtuff.”

 

Smitty:  I’m telling ya.  (Both laughing.)

 

AJ:  You know, we’re in John Burk’s office, that’s maybe the first day…it was either the first or our second meeting there in Burk’s office.  I arrive a little before George does and I say “Oh, please, can I have a coffee?” and so one of Burk’s assistants goes for coffee, and in the meantime, while I’m in the men’s room, George is arriving and he asks for a cup of coffee too, and so when I come out, George is sitting there drinking a cup of coffee and I’m saying to him “Hey, man, you got my coffee!”  (Both laughing.)  And George starts laughing.  “What do you mean your cup of coffee?  This is mine.  Don’t start no schtuff.”  And we fell on the floor laughing.

 

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

 

AJ:  We fell on the floor. We said “Don’t start no schtuff.  We ought to write a song like that.”  And that’s how the idea was born for that song.

 

Smitty:  (Laughs.) And, you know, it’s got that whole attitude. “Don’t start no schtuff.”

 

AJ:  That attitude just persisted throughout the record….Just fun and loose, and let’s bring our best stuff that we do together to the project. And when we finished….we weren’t even entirely finished, but when we had enough of that song to sit down and listen to, I mean, basically what you’re hearing there with the need to touch it here and there with, oh, I’ve forgotten what we may have added later on, but when I listened to what you basically listened to, I couldn’t take it out of the CD player.  I listened to it ten times just in the car coming home, got in the house and listened to it ten times, just enjoying that moment, the freshness of that moment, the laughter and the fun in there.

 

Smitty: How cool is that!

 

AJ:  The (singing), “Al, don’t start no stuff up in here.”

 

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

 

AJ:  “What you talking about?” (Both laughing.) And that conversation back and forth.

 

Smitty:  Oh, man.  That’s classic stuff.

 

AJ:  If they’re not talking about it for a while, they oughta be.  (Laughs.)

 

Smitty: Yes indeed.

 

AJ:  Then Marcus (Miller) comes in with “Tutu”.…and lays it out and I did the lyric for “Tutu.”

 

Smitty:  Yes.  And that bluesy feel it’s has, man, when you first start out with that. I mean, every song just grabs you in a new way, in a new place, and it is just beautiful. 

 

AJ:  Oh, thank you, man.  I hope other people get that. We tried to make every song have a statement from the opening note. (Singing.)  Do “Tutu” but let ‘em hear something they ain’t ever heard.

 

Smitty:  Yes.

 

AJ:  Got it for you.  Here it is, Marcus.  Let’s start this way.  (Both laughing.)  You know, the lyric on that sucker, man, whew!

 

Smitty:  It’s sweet. Speaking of Marcus Miller. You guys have some monster arrangers on this project.

 

AJ:  Yeah. We haven’t even talked about Jill Scott (“God Bless the Child”). And Patti Austin (“Let It Rain”).  Haven’t even talked about them.

 

Smitty:  I know. And we’re gonna get to that ‘cause I wanna talk about their great contributions. But, you know, when I think about people like Larry Williams, Marcus Miller, Michael Broening, John Burk, Rex Rideout, Mr. Club 1600.

 

AJ:  Yup.

 

Smitty:  And then Barry Eastmond, what a bad boy.

 

AJ:  Yeah.

 

Smitty:  You know, you guys have every element it takes to just put people on just a blissful musical journey, amazing.

 

AJ:  Mm-hmm, we had some excellent help.

 

Smitty:  Yes.

 

AJ:  Excellent guest appearances on that record.

 

Smitty:  Oh, on every level, this is top notch, you name it.  It’s got it.

 

AJ:  Hmm.  Mm-hmm, yeah.

 

Smitty:  Yes indeed.  Now, my girl Jill Scott.  Whoo!

 

AJ:  Jill Scott.

 

Smitty:  Boy, did she bless the child…did she do that song or what?

 

AJ:  Did she do that song?

 

Smitty:  Wow!

 

AJ:  Did she do that song?  Did she bring some Jill Scott to that?

 

Smitty:  She brought some Jill Scott and both you and George were right there with her.

 

AJ:  Right….the feel that I set up, you know, with the bass figure that I’m singing.

 

Smitty:  Yes.

 

AJ:  And, yeah, it’s funky.  (Laughs.)

 

Smitty:  It is, man.  I said, now, I’ve heard a lot of versions of this, but I said, this is “God Bless the Child” in 2006.

 

AJ:  In 2006.  A little hip hop attitude on it, yeah.

 

Smitty:  Yeah, man.  All three of you were just the most beautiful complement.  I mean, you couldn’t have put three great vocalists together and do this again because this is just classic beautiful stuff, and then Marcus Miller was just laying that bass down on it.

 

AJ:  Our buddy.

 

Smitty:  Yeah, and Patrice is just…oh, she’s incredible.

 

AJ:  Yeah, yeah.  And when you bring some real love and desire to the room marvelous things happen.

 

Smitty:  I like that. That’s a great statement.

 

AJ:  And the thing about “God Bless the Child,” it is that moment that I just described that is the heart and core of this song.  Okay, it’s like this.  I’m gonna describe it for you.  “All right, Jill.”  I sent her “Let it rain tonight,….“ (singing).  I sent her that song.  That’s the song I wanted her to sing but Patti Austin ended up singing. “I can be so selfish but sad and moody” (singing).  I sent her that song, she listened to it, came to the studio and said “But I don’t wanna do that.”  (Both laughing.)  “I’m here and I’ll sing with ya’ll, but I don’t wanna do that one.  I want something different.  I wanna do something different.”  “Okay, here we are.  What you wanna do?”

 

Smitty:  That’s funny.

 

AJ:  And she said “I wanna do ‘God Bless the Child.’”  And so I said “Hey, we gotta put something different on it,” so I immediately went to Marcus (Miller) “Okay, Marcus this is the bass figure:  (singing).  That’s how we should do it.  Let’s do it funky.  Let’s do it ‘today.’”  And Marcus said “Well, you have to sing the bass just like that.  You should sing the bass.  Sing the bass and then I’ll come play that bass line after you get it started, but that’ll make it different than anything anybody’s seen in this sector of the universe.”

 

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

 

AJ:  “Jill, you ready?”  “Well, yeah.”  Hey, didn’t know the song entirely. You know, she’s learning parts of it as she sang it. And that’s with the right emotion.  “I wanna sing ‘God Bless the Child.’” A moment.

 

Smitty:  How incredible is that?

 

AJ:  Come with the love and with the heart and with the willingness and with the feeling, stuff happens.

 

Smitty:  Yes indeed.

 

AJ:  And you know that electric sparks happen. It was new art. Hey, that happened in an afternoon. Writing the arrangement as we went.

 

Smitty:  Now, Al, you’ve been close to this from day one.

 

AJ:  Mm-hmm.

 

Smitty:  From the time you were in John Burk’s office with George.

 

AJ:  Yeah.

 

Smitty:  And you’ve seen all of these beautiful things happen.

 

AJ:  Yes.

 

Smitty:  And now we’re 11 days from the release. The album release October 24th.

 

AJ:  Yeah.

 

Smitty:  How do you contain yourself?

 

AJ:  (Sighs and laughs.)  Smitty, that’s a very…no one’s asked that question, but it’s a description of what’s going on inside of me. There’s an excitement and anticipation here.  George and I went out and did our first tour with this record under our arms in August. We did 12 cities. In the month of August, George and I on stage doing music from this record. Yeah, there’s a real kind of excitement that is hard to describe.

 

Smitty: Yeah, because, you know, this kind of excitement doesn’t go away in a month.

 

AJ:  No. You’re right.

 

Smitty: I mean, this is part of your life that you have lived with this great music. This kind of excitement will exist for some time.

 

AJ:  Yeah, it’s a kind of culmination, isn’t it? A kind of culmination, at least for this moment in two careers. We’ve brought all that we’ve done, you know, everything from my “Breaking Away.”

 

Smitty:  Yeah, baby.

 

AJ:  All of that stuff that’s happened in my life to this moment and made this statement.  George has brought everything from his “Breezin’” and “Masquerade” life and existence as a musician to the project and to this moment, and it does represent a kind of culmination of our histories in this moment with Givin’ It Up. So, yeah, a culmination for both of us, and there is a kind of excitement which is an unusual kind of excitement that comes from the culmination of two careers to make a statement right now and, yeah, it’s hard to contain ourselves.

 

Smitty: I ask that question because I had nothing to do with making this record and I’m totally excited about it. So I can just imagine you cats with this record, you know?

 

AJ:  Yeah, well, you know, there’s a thing that we are kind of hoping for that maybe it’s too much wishful thinking or too great a hope. There is a kind of way that we listened to music that doesn’t exist very much anymore.  When people got together and, yeah, you know, the new Sly Stone, the new Janis Joplin. And the list goes on….The new Elton John.  And you got together with some friends, a glass of wine, and laid on the floor in front of the speakers of the system and then put your head on a pillow and you just listened for a whole record over and over again, maybe listened for an hour, maybe listened for three or four hours….

 

Smitty:  I remember that.

 

AJ: .…and put something else on and listened.  People used to do that. I don’t think people feel music that way these days anymore.  I don’t think that happens.  Now, no, not young people.  There are so many other attractions.  People watch a movie.  Movies are huge.

 

Smitty:  Yes.

 

AJ:  Bigger bang for the buck, explosions, you know, blood, gore, sex.  It’s a different time. Music doesn’t mean what it meant a few years ago when life was a little different, a little simpler. And at the risk of sounding like a geezer or an old timer, that doesn’t exist anymore.

 

Smitty:  And you’re absolutely right. You’re exactly right.

 

AJ:  So we have to hope that with a project like this we’ll perhaps bring some audience to that listening experience, new Surround Sound, the way to listen to this record.

 

Smitty:  Yeah, man.

 

AJ:  Maybe this project and things inside of it that are kind of special moments, will give people a chance to get back to some of that.…some people who’ve been there in their past and in their history and in recent times haven’t done that will go there with this record.

 

Smitty:  Absolutely because it sure took me there and that’s one of the main reasons why I love this record because it does take you back. You know, we were talking about “Long Come Tutu,” track three.

 

AJ:  Yes.

 

Smitty:  That whole feel of the song takes me back. “Mornin” and  “Breezin’” takes me back, because they have that strong, raw feel that I love, yeah.

 

AJ:  Right, fresh.

 

Smitty:  Yes, fresh feel to it.

 

AJ:  Yeah, George played some stuff on there that knocked Herbie Hancock’s socks off.  (Both laughing.)

 

Smitty:  And that’s knockin’ some socks off.

 

AJ:  I could hear him now.  “God, I haven’t heard him play like that before.  Haven’t heard you play like that, George.”  And Herbie just sparkles on “Tutu.”  (Laughs.)

 

Smitty:  Yes indeed. Yeah, I think they both brought out the best in each other on that, you know?

 

AJ:  Yes. Go for it.

 

Smitty: How sweet. Well, Al, I can’t say enough about this record.  You and I could talk for another four hours about this, you know that. It’s that good.

 

AJ:  Yes, you’re right, we could go on talking some more.

 

Smitty: As always, it’s always a sheer pleasure to talk with you, my friend.

 

AJ:  Thank you, Smitty.  I enjoyed chatting with you too and I’m really flattered to hear you say that you like talking to me.

 

Smitty:  Oh, yeah, man.

 

AJ:  You talk to a lotta people, man.

 

Smitty:  Yeah, but you are tops, and you’re not just tops with me because when your name comes up in any circle, it’s always “Oh, we love Al.” Yeah, man, so you are the boy, that’s for sure.

 

AJ:  (Laughs.) Every day is Thanksgiving.

 

Smitty:  Absolutely, my friend, and keep making great music and keep doing what you do, my friend. We’ve been talking with the incredible Al Jarreau. He has joined George Benson on a magnificent collaborative project called Givin’ It Up and you must add this one to your CD collection. I highly recommend this project for anyone that love great music! Al, congratulations on this new record and all the very best with it and your upcoming tour.

 

AJ:  All right, Smitty, thank you very much for your time, interest, for listening, and for all that you do.

 

 

 

Baldwin “Smitty” Smith

 

 

For More Information Visit www.aljarreau.com and www.georgebenson.com and www.concordmusicgroup.com  and www.monstercable.com

 

 

 

 

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