Episode #1: Humor, fun, dancing, message…… mornin’ Mr. Radio, mornin’ little cherios…..
I little dream came true when I was called up after Al Jarreau’s press conference to interview him one-on-one. As the main headliner at the 16th CapeTown International Jazz Festival, 28-29 March 2015, this American wizard of voice and rhythm in the jazz, R&B, and pop genres blessed me with some 105 minutes of heart and soul talk. Here we go…..
Al Jarreau talks with Carol Martin (28 March 2015)
CM: You’re very African in your rhythms. Have you been to other African countries?
AJ: I’m embarrassed to say, no! But my ears are bigger than elephant’s….. I grew up listening to polkas, because the Polish settled in Milwaukee where I grew up. My ears listened to the waltz, and delta blues. At the age of 7 years, I would hear from our Milwaukee, Wisconsin home the late night polka tavern next door pumping at full force, since the area was historically populated by people from Poland and Germany, etc. These songs and beats had a huge influence on me as a child and played in my head then. I listened to church music, since my father was a minister in the church. (He sings) “Go down Moses, way down in Egypt land, tell ole Pharoah, let ma people gooooo.”
“Yeh Yeh…..” (Al sings a tune with a West African beat, and with scatty lyrics to demonstrate an influence on his own ears and heart.) You listen carefully and hear these African rhythms and messages which can also be heard in Cuban music…..and Brazilian music. That’s why I’m interested in making music for others to hear. That’s what I did. I listened to and felt those sounds in that music because that’s the important mission I have in life, to make music for others to enjoy! And maybe find a little Africa in my music, and a little Poland in my music!
CM: I was just interviewing Basia who has the same influence from the Cuban and Brazilian music influences, but she’s never been there.
AJ: So you don’t have to be IN a country to hear the music. But if your ears are really listening, and you’re listening with your heart, you get it!
CM: Here in South Africa, the lyrics of songwriters are sometimes weak in talking about the social, political, and economic transformations out of the past. Can we talk about your song lyrics? Here, there’s always the struggle…..
AJ: What do you mean by ‘struggle’? …. the struggle to do lyrics or….the ‘great struggle’?
CM: Yes, the ‘great struggle’ – the struggle for ‘freedom’ which is a continuum…. But the lyrics by musicians, particularly jazz musicians, and song writers are weak in reflecting these issues. Do you write your own lyrics? And how can jazz musicians be encouraged to write their lyrics addressing these transformation issues?
AJ: Yes, I write many of my own lyrics. My answer I think is to find the people who are doing ‘it’, which means people who are writing about the times they live in. Also, find a sense of humor in the music you write. As well as a sense of fun and dancing. We tend to emphasise too much the latter, and too little about the art of survival – on our planet earth, and in our communities. How are we taking care of each other? Some combination of these messages are important for me. So a lot of my songs are the ‘mornin’ tradition –
mornin’ Mr. Radio
mornin’ little cherios
mornin’ sister orio
did I tell you everything is fine
in my mind
in my mind
everything is fine.
how you think is how you are….
Find a way to think properly and you’ll be OK.
Now this involves finding a way of knowing we are OK. I don’t care how many mistakes we make on this planet. I don’t care how much radiation destroys the planet. We are OK. We are immortal. From the rib of God, we DON’T DIE….. We’re the greatest lesson in the world, ‘cause we don’t die…..
Stop mourning, and celebrate the ‘morning’ –
‘thank you father, thank you father…. Thank you for giving me LIFE, and eyes to witness, and a mind to understand that YOU are forever, dear Father, and I have come from you. Therefore, I have immortality and forever-ness in me because of you. I’ve just stopped here (on earth) to learn a few little things from you. ‘
We’re on loan….. and un-learning!! Hah hah.
The next chats go deeper…… Stay tuned!! Jarreau is promoting his new album “My Old Friend-Celebrating George Duke” and it’s a whopper!