Al Jarreau (1940-2017)

It was what I feared.

When I wrote last week that I was saddened that Al Jarreau has suddenly retired from touring, I never expected he would be gone so soon after…but sudden retirements lend themselves to these kinds of outcomes.

A co-worker of mine spoke of interviewing Al some years back…and recalled how Al treated his music with an almost “spiritual” reverence.   For those of us who will miss his talent and his smile on stage, we will always have his music to remember him by.

Al was apparently singing to the end.  This was posted on Twitter last Friday (2/10):

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That said..I will leave this as the postscript.

Al Jarreau — in collaboration with Bob James and David Sanborn — performing Since I Fell For You.

Rest well, Al.

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Three Eras…Three Endings (sort of)

When I came into the office, the news hit me about three people in the public entertainment eye who have made decisions that the current phases of their careers will change.  I’ll offer thoughts on all three here.

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Bob Costas

Watching an Olympic games on NBC will not be the same for me.  As a sports fan, it was always a comfort to me when you tuned to the Games in prime time and saw Costas in the anchor chair.   He has announced that the most recent Rio Olympics was his last as lead anchor.  Former ESPN anchor Mike Tirico will take over.  Costas says he’s “transitioning” his career.   The Associated Press couched Costas’ next chapter thusly:

Costas, 64, said he’s not retiring from the business, but entering the “Tom Brokaw phase” of his career. Brokaw, the former NBC “Nightly News” anchor, is a commentator at big news events and makes documentaries.

Tirico will be fine…but it won’t be the same.

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Aretha Franklin

What can you say about “The Queen of Soul” that hasn’t been said already?  She’s earned every bit of R-E-S-P-E-C-T throughout her career.  Now she says this year will be her swan song.  Detroit TV station WDIV reported it first and offered this detail that the AP relayed:

The singer says she will make one more album, with several tracks produced by Stevie Wonder, and will otherwise limit herself to “some select things, many one a month, for six months out of the year” as she devotes more time to her grandchildren. She also says 2017 will be her “last year in concert.”
“”This will be my last year,” Franklin said. “I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert. This is it.”

My only question is…who will be heir to the queen’s throne.

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Al Jarreau

As a jazz fan…this hits me the most.  I have always been a fan of Al Jarreau — from the traditional jazz to the pop crossovers.  Even his theme from Moonlighting carried a lot of his jazzy style.   But I was saddened to read this statement on his website on why he is stepping away:

“Al Jarreau is in the hospital in Los Angeles, due to exhaustion. He is receiving excellent medical care, responding to treatments, and improving slowly.   The medical team has instructed that he cannot perform any of his remaining 2017 concert dates.   Therefore, with complete sorrow, Al Jarreau must retire from touring. He is thankful for his 50 years of traveling the world in ministry through music, and for everyone who shared this with him – his faithful audience, the dedicated musicians, and so many others who supported his effort.”

The best thing I can do is leave you with a sample his music mastery.  Below..a duet with Kurt Elling on a scat-filled version of Dave Brubeck’s classic Take 5.

Godspeed and good health Al.

 

Coming Soon: The Passing of An Institution

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It happened on the Sunday before — some would say — a political circus begins.

Feld Entertainment announced it was shutting down its most famous enterprise.   Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…children of all ages, what that means is this May we will see the final performances ever of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Some might say the handwriting was on the wall.

It was just last year that Ringling Bros. made the decision as part of its ‘future’, that it’s elephants would no longer be involved in the touring show.

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In a statement Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment which produces the circus, essentially said that decision was the final straw that led to the decision to bring down the house lights later this year.

“Ringling Bros. ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop. This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company.”

It’s been many years since I’ve seen a circus live.  I’ll be honest…I’m not even sure it was Ringling Bros.   The flashes I can remember are filled with smiles and wonderment about how they got the tigers to jump through the hoops, and how all those clowns got in that little car.  That was back when clown weren’t so scary to so many people.  (Perhaps a secondary reason why circus popularity was on the decline)

Kenneth Feld in his statement said thank you to legions of families and fans who kept the circus going all these years.

“Nearly 50 years ago, my father founded our company with the acquisition of Ringling Bros. The circus and its people have continually been a source of inspiration and joy to my family and me, which is why this was such a tough business decision to make. The decision was even more difficult because of the amazing fans that have become part of our extended circus family over the years, and we are extremely grateful to the millions of families who have made Ringling Bros. part of their lives for generations. We know Ringling Bros. isn’t only our family business, but also your family tradition.”

Cirque du Soleil’s redefinition of the spectacle made Ringling Bros. a Model T Ford in a Cadillac Escalade world.   It’s time had come.

So..after 146 years.  The “smell of the grease paint” will start to fade and the “roar of the crowd” will fall silent.  But many a child for as long as they are able will remember the time they were witness to “The Greatest Show on Earth”.

The final 17 shows will be at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY May 12-21.

 

 

Viva ‘Dia Portugal’

I guess it’s just like American ‘Happy Hour’…it’s never just ONE hour.

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There is a rather vibrant Portuguese community in Newark, New Jersey.  So much so that the annual Portugal Day celebration here lasts THREE days.  It’s chock full of glimpses into the culture.  From the traditional drum ensemble..

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to the native dancing.

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And no matter the festival…the food is always a draw.   Nothing makes you smile like a wheel of barbecued meat.

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The lovely Karen and I had a good time browsing, people (and dog) watching and taking in the sights.  By the way..even though we’re standing in front of the beer stand, we did not partake.   We saw what the excess imbibing could do to some folks out there.

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It was a good time.   If you ever get to Newark and can find your way to the ‘Ironbound’ section…there are plenty of Portuguese, Spanish and Iberian stops to make and dishes to sample.  We’re just getting started.

Viva Portugal!

You Thought The ‘Summer Of Trump’ Was Strange?

No matter who wins the White House in 2o16..don’t get too settled.

Train’s coming!

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At this year’s MTV VMAs, the one…the only…Kanye West announced he would be running for President of the United States in 2020.

That’s it!  We’re saved.   Everything will be all right!   There’s nothing more that America needs than not only Kanye at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — but Kim Kardashian as First Lady!  Heaven help us all (to cross into Canada)!   But we have to stop and think.  Not many of us (and by that I mean HARDLY ANY of us) believed that Donald Trump would be far and away leading the GOP race for President.

Still…the utter preposterous notion of Kanye West as Commander-in-Chief is — to say the least –asinine to even say in jest.  In fact..I don’t even think he remembers it.  He said during the show that he may have been on something.

I’m all for a good laugh.  But Kanye..do us all a favor.  Sit down…please!

I can see it now.  Kanye in 2020:  A Clear Vision!

Yikes!

 

Rest Well, B.B.! Today ‘The Blues’ Has The Blues

Today..’Lucille’ sits silent.

Blues music is a fading art.  It has now lost the man who has long been the face of the genre.

The legendary B.B. King passed away in his sleep Friday.  Given his recent serious health issues, his death — while not unexpected — is still very sad.

There’s not much I can say to quantify a life spent entertaining so many for so long.  So I’ll let the man’s music speak for him.

Rest well B.B.   There’s a stage near the Pearly Gates waiting for you.

 

Television That Has Shaped My Life

Some so-called experts say watching television (to excess) can be bad for childhood development.   I’ve recently come up with a list of five people/programs/genres on the boob tube that have had a noticeable influence on my life — then and now.  You may agree or disagree with one or more of these..but those who know me will understand my choices.

By the way..I’d be interested in hearing your five choices for TV that has shaped your lives.

Here goes.

1.  Walter Cronkite

I don’t think I would have ever pursued a career as a journalist without having seen the man once known as “The Most Trusted Man In America” during his run as anchor of the CBS Evening News.   He showed me that you don’t have to have an agenda or a political bent to tell people what’s happening in the world.   There are people who are well acquainted with me who still cannot definitively say whether I lean left or right politically.  That’s the way I want it.   Here’s the master at work handling a somewhat awkward breaking news story live on the air. (By the way..I love the old-school typewriter noise in the background)

2.  Schoolhouse Rock

You remember them.  3 is a Magic Number, Elbow Room, We The People, Conjunction Junction and all the rest.  Without these vignettes, I would never have mastered my multiplication,  learned about inventions (thanks to Mother Necessity) and walked in to my high school Civics/American Government class being able to recite the Preamble to the Constitution off the top of my head.  Think of what kids today could take from this.  If you can find the DVD with all the songs on it, give it to a mom with small children..and let the learning begin.  Here’s one of my favorites.

3.  70’s/80’s Game/Quiz Shows

Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve sitting in front of the TV and watching game shows.  You could easily kill a morning playing along with Card Sharks, Family Feud, Sale of the Century, High Rollers..all culminating with the venerable Bob Barker and The Price Is Right.  I was pleased when Who Wants To Be A Millionaire fueled a resurgence.  My favorite will always be Jeopardy!  (By the way Trebek..I’m waiting for you guys to open up the next online test so I can audition)   As for a great..and one of the funnier moments. I turn to an episode of Celebrity Jeopardy!

4.  “March Madness”

The NCAA Basketball Tournament didn’t become the phenomenon it is today until Larry Bird and “Magic” Johnson hooked up when Indiana State and Michigan State played for the title in 1979.  The tournament didn’t become “March Madness” (in my opinion) until four years later when Goliath (portrayed by a great University of Houston team) was felled by David (a Jim Valvano-led N.C. State tea).  I’ve been hooked ever since.

5.  Food Network

Yes..I’m addicted to the Food Network.  I can actually spend hours on end watching various show on it (and its companion Cooking Channel).  When you;re on who’s not so adept in the kitchen, I am not so ashamed to admit that there are tips and tricks I’ve gleaned from Bobby Flay, Giada DiLaurentiis, Alton Brown and the like.  I’ve actually gotten better (and will actually cook a meal for my wife every now and again).   French Toast anyone?  Alton Brown is your guide.

 

Sometimes You Just have To Know When It’s Your Time..And When It’s Not

When history remembers you as America’s first “boy band”, there is a standard you have to uphold..even 36 years later.

New Edition was founded in 1978.  No one would really know who they were until about four years after they became a group.  That’s when Ralph Tresvant’s helium-like voice fronted the group on Candy Girl thus beginning a pretty lucrative recording career for Ralph and his buddies Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike..and eventually Johnny.

The path New Edition carved paved the way for New Kids On The Block, The Backstreet Boys, N’Sync and the like.

Let’s fast forward more than three decades.  Reunion tours are fun and often bring back memories of those bubble-gum pop songs (even when you know damn well they can’t hit those notes anymore).

And then there are the dance moves.

The guys in New Edition are a bunch of 40-somethings now..most of them closer to the big 5-0.  So, if a reunion tour is in the cards..do us all a favor and GET IN SHAPE.  This is aimed at one of the (not so) New Edition gang in particular.

Bobby Brown has had a hard life.  No one disputes that  Drugs, alcohol, the whole Whitney episode (Crack is whack!)  But the video below shows what happens when you let yourself go for too long..and suddenly try to recapture your youth.  Keep your eyes on Bobby on the far left.

 

Really??!!

My wife says what you saw was something that a little P90x could have easily fixed.

Kudos to the other guys for keeping the beat.

As for you Bobby..repeat after me:

‘My Prerogative’ will be that ‘Every Little Step’ will be the right ones for the rest of the tour.

If not…then be like the rest of us 40-somethings..and dance when no one else is looking.

 

A Few Random Things From The Week That Was

It’s been a very busy week..so I will apologize up front for going so long without posting. A couple of things caught my eye this week.  As we celebrate another Father’s Day weekend, my friend and former TV news colleague Dee Griffin offered this: Dad day Not sure how I feel about this.  Should card makers be capitalizing on what in this country is a single-parent epidemic?  I’m sure it was meant to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek.  I’d be interested to hear from you about what message this is ultimately sending. Another picture I saw comes courtesy of my buddy Brian Freeman. Really Really??!!  I mean…really??!!    Someone should be ashamed of themselves. Finally..tonight (6/14) I’m treating me and the lovely Karen to a concert in Durham.  My two favorite smooth jazz groups — Spyro Gyra and The Yellowjackets — are performing tonight at the Carolina Theatre.  On the same bill, no less.  So, we’ll start the evening at what I hear is a pretty good Chicken and Waffles place around the corner from the venue..and then take in the show.  It should be a great evening.   If you’re a smooth jazz fan, you may already be familiar with Spyro Gyra.   The Yellowjackets…not so much.   I’ll leave you with a small taste of their genius.  It’s called “Timeline”.  Enjoy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EP25iNdWUgs

Wait…Aren’t You That ‘Fresh Prince’ Guy??

My fabulous hometown of Charleston, SC welcomed some special guests last week.   According to the local ABC affiliate and the Facebook page of the Courtyard by Marriott Historic District, Will and Jada Pinkett-Snith swooped into town last Wednesday and spent a few days in what longtime mayor Joe Riley, Jr. has called “our fair city”.

I suspect they wanted to slow the pace a little bit.  But..they are celebrities.  You can rarely go anywhere without someone noticing — in Will’s case — one of the biggest box office draws on the planet roaming your streets.  Online publication HolyCitySinner.com was on top of it.  They captured images of Will outside a local spot called Husk.

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Photo courtesy: @Sumner929

He even, at one point, felt the urge to hop on the pedals of one of Charleston’s many rickshaws to cart a young lady a few feet to..well..nowhere in particular.

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Photo courtesy: HolyCitySinner.com

I envy her brush with a Hollywood heavyweight.   Just one question:

WHERE IS YOUR CELLPHONE???!!!

You’ve got movie megastar Will Smith carting you around the streets of Charleston..and you look like you’re just happy to be there!  Was the crowd that was gathered not your first clue that this is probably the time to click into video mode on your smart phone and record this for posterity? I’m sorry..but the folks I know in Chuck Town would have been snapping photos until their sim cards blew up…and then asking you to borrow your phone.

Sorry young lady..whomever you may be.  But I chalk this up as a Celebrity Sighting Fail!

I should add that I will be the first to acknowledge it when I am wrong.  If you know the young lady being chauffeured in the above photo and she has a selfie with Will, post a comment with the pic and I will dish myself a nice big plate of crow.