One of the benefits of living in Sagamihara is being close to the BlueNote in Tokyo. The BlueNote is arguably the most popular live jazz venue in the city. Over the years, I have been there many times to see various artists, but the one that sticks with me the most is my all-time favorite jazz/rhythm and blues vocalist, Al Jarreau.
The first time I saw him live was in the early 80’s at Radio City Music Hall in New York. I had a few of his albums (not cds), but after seeing him live, I was completely hooked. So I knew I had to see him again!
Sagamihara to BlueNote, Tokyo- Al Jarreau
Moving to Sagamihara allowed the occasional treat of going to The BlueNote. In 1998 I was able to see him again; this time in that small venue. After the concert, we waited for the rest of the audience to clear. Having seen him exit through the kitchen door, we headed that way. Eventually one of the members of his band came out and I asked him if it was possible to say hello to Al. “No problem, come on in.” I could feel my heart beating as we walked through that busy kitchen to his dressing room.
What a nice guy. And a funny guy! I told him I played trombone, and he started singing “76 Trombones in the Orchestra” while marching around the room and mimicking a trombone. He was truly genuine; nothing fake about him. We missed the last train home from Tokyo, but it was worth sitting in a restaurant until 5am!
Al Loved Performing in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan
A year later he returned to Japan, and I went back for another excellent concert. This time we sat right in front of him. As soon as he hit the stage, he smiled and gave us the “thumbs up” while singing his first song. Did he remember us? We managed to get to his dressing room again; and indeed he did! That gracious man gave me about 15 minutes of his time, talking non-stop about how much he loved performing in Japan, Tokyo, Osaka, the world.
And again a few years later! He gave me his setlist the last time I saw him.
Those years of seeing him live in Tokyo- his voice, stage presence, the musicians, his kindness, etc., will always be one of the fondest memories of my life- memories created right here in Tokyo. Living in Japan is GOOD. RIP Al Jarreau (1940-2017).
*I had intended to write “Part 3” of these blogs- (1) An Evolving English School Organization- Smith’s School of English, Japan and (2) Gone Paperless- Smith’s School of English, Japan, but realized that our Founder, Mark Smith had already done it some time ago. Mark sums it up well here- (3) https://sse-franchise.com/smiths-school-of-english-going-digital/.
If you have never heard Al Jarreau, click the link below. Even if you don’t like jazz, you’ll enjoy this! Thank you for reading!
Jim, Smith’s School of English, Sagamihara
Derek Maeckelburg says
What a nice story. It must have made him happy having such a big fan.