Al Jarreau and Ramsey Lewis

On Friday evening September 21, 2012, The Peach Review was proud to attend a concert consisting of two jazz giants — pianist Ramsey Lewis, and singer Al Jarreau.  These two giants, at the ages of 77 and 72 respectively, showed that they still know how to bring down the house!

The concert was held at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, and  proved to be a “perfect storm” for the venue – the Centre was celebrating the 5th anniversary of its opening, as well as celebrating opening night for Jazz Roots: A Larry Rosen Jazz Series.  Now, for those who consider themselves jazz aficionados, I’m sure your antenna vibrates when you hear the name Larry Rosen.  If you’ve enjoyed jazz at any point from the 70’s forward (i.e. The Yellowjackets, Angela Bofill, Tom Browne, Ramsey Lewis, The Rippingtons, Spyra Gyra, David Benoit, Lee Ritenour, Chick Corea, Diana Krall, and Arturo Sandoval just to name a few), you’ve listened to some music courtesy of GRP (Grusin, Rose Productions – as in Dave Grusin).

After being warmed up in the venue’s foyer by a wonderful local high school jazz band, Ramsey Lewis’ quintet kicked things off.  His set could be characterized as a “book-end performance” — he opened up with one bookend, his standard “Wade In The Water”, and closed with his other standard, the 1974 classic that he recorded with Earth, Wind, and Fire, “Sun Goddess”.  Playfully, Lewis informed the audience that EWF wasn’t able to attend the performance, so he needed the audience to sing along – after all, the lyrics only consist of one word: “Ayyyoh”

In between the two “book-ends”, Lewis peppered the audience with his version of Stevie Wonders’ “Living For The City”, the Stylistics’ “Betcha By Golly Wow” – featuring a wonderful impromptu sing along by the audience, and eventually took us to church with a wonderful medley of “Precious Lord (Take my Hand)” and “Do Not Pass Me By”.  I would truly be remiss if I didn’t mention the drum solo that accompanied this medley – the other four members of the quintet left the stage in order to “give the drummer some”.  It was outstanding.

After a brief intermission to re-set the stage, Al Jarreau sauntered out onto the stage – as only Al can.  The bottom line on Al’s performance is that he didn’t disappoint.  I had the opportunity to see Al Jarreau perform in California over 30 years ago — he hasn’t slowed down much since then.

Al opened with his classic song “In My Mind”; that song took me back to a time when life was easy – no responsibilities and full of fun!  As with any Al Jarreau show, you’re going to be educated, and leave with some morsel of information that you didn’t know before coming; like Al performing in Malta at an annual meeting of heads of states of various countries, and looking out into the audience and seeing Georgia’s own Newt and Calista Gingrich.  Al even mentioned that Newt was rocking to his beat – in time!  Al also performed his classic “Come Rain or Come Shine” that he performed with George Duke almost 50 years ago.  Al also performed some new stuff as well; of note, “Double Feature” and “Jacaranda-Boulavelia”.  Being the mentor that he is, he also introduced some new talent: guitarist John Calderon, and bassist / vocalist Chris Walker (who crooned a lovely duet along with Al called “Random Act of Love”).

Before calling it an evening, Al also performed his classic hits, “We’re In This Love Together”, and “Get My Boogie Down” as well as “Skoot Your Booty”.

Overall, it was a wonderful evening — wonderful for the audience, but also wonderful for the many students that were on hand who were fortunate enough to have Al visit their school (Benjamin Mayes High School), and to also participate in a talk back Q&A session with both artists prior to the show.

What a way to kick off the fall season!


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