I really enjoyed my trip to Accra, Ghana to perform with Earl Klugh at the Stanbic Ghana Jazz Festival! As we begin the first leg of our journey back home, our hearts are joyful and heavy. Earl's band is on its way to Amsterdam and I snoozed through takeoff, but I woke up because I want to blog a little while the memories are still fresh on my mind. After the six hours to Holland, I will travel to Detroit and then Dallas.
Let me start at the beginning of the trip with my flight from L.A. to Amsterdam after a couple of great nights in San Diego and Studio City with the magnificent pianist Keiko Matsui. I joined part of Earl Klugh's band in Holland for the flight to Ghana. The blizzard hampered travel for part of our entourage, so we arrived on Tuesday night and the rest on Wednesday. From the moment we arrived, we were escorted into VIP quarters at the airport and the hospitality of the Ghanaians began. They were so happy to see us and have us performing at their festival; the excitement was apparent. Our accommodations were wonderful right on the Atlantic Ocean and the food at the hotel was delicious. Wednesday, we were taken to the offices of Stanbic Bank and Vodafone, two of the largest sponsors of the concert. While we were there, we met the top executives at both companies in the boardrooms and they expressed their delight that we were in their country. Even though Earl had never performed in Ghana, they were very familiar with his music. Our day culminated in a short press conference with television, radio, and news media present. The questions showed how much respect the press had for Earl's music and his legacy. Wednesday night, we visited the sprawling Accra International Conference Centre to set up and do a quick line check. By now, our crew and drummer had joined us after various flight cancellations!
Thursday was showtime and the theater was filled with various top executives, ministers from the political cabinet, and two former presidents of the country! The audience was enthusiastic for the opening local artists that performed, and then we took the stage after a brief intermission. From the first note, the audience showed its love and appreciation for Earl and his music. They begged for an encore and didn't want us to stop playing. Afterwards, we enjoyed the grateful and ecstatic concert-goers as we signed CDs and programs.
Friday, we had time to relax and catch up on some rest from our travels during the day. Plus, we were able to dine on the sumptuous food at the Labadi Beach Hotel. That night, we performed again for another full theater of eager listeners. The band was really in sync with me on saxes and flute, David Lee as usual on keyboards, and Marcus Finnie and Stanley Sargeant filling in on drums and bass, respectively. Earl was in fine form and captured the audience from the first note. Afterwards, we spent time with the warm and kind people of Ghana and were interviewed by Capital TV as well. Over the two nights, we were informed that we had entertained two former presidents of Ghana, several supreme court justices, and ministers from the political cabinet!
Saturday, we were given a brief driving tour of Accra, the capital of Ghana. We saw the historic Jamestown region, and we visited the museum and national park dedicated to the first president of Ghana. There was so much to see from women balancing loads on their heads as they walked down the narrow streets to men carrying baskets of fresh fish for sale. Kids frolicked in the water as temperatures and humidity soared in the bright sun. People flashed smiles as we drove by. The day ended with a trip to a bustling market that sold handmade crafts, clothing, artwork, masks, and jewelry.
Finally and sadly, it was time to begin our journey back to the States. In the lobby, we hugged, took pictures, and they surprised us with parting gifts. Everyone was sad to see us depart and invited us to return soon. As we piled into the SUVs to begin the trek to the airport, a group of them accompanied us to make sure that we were going to be safely on our way. On top of that, we received a police escort all the way to the terminal! That was a first for me!
Thank you, people of Ghana, for a wonderful time in your country! I look forward to returning soon.
Tom, Earl Klugh & Band at Stanbic Ghana Jazz Festival
Tom, Earl Klugh & group at monument in Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park;
Tom with driver, Kwasi, before heading to airport in Ghana
Friday, November 14, 2014
Weekend of Jazz at Kiawah Island...Unforgettable!
November 6-8 was Earl Klugh's 5th Annual Weekend of Jazz at the Sanctuary at the Kiawah Island Resort in South Carolina. As always, there was a stellar lineup of talent featuring Natalie Cole, Chuck Loeb, Rick Braun, Michael Lington, Trombone Shorty, David Benoit, and Andy Snitzer. I arrived late on Wednesday night because I had a Daystar TV show earlier that day. Thursday, I rehearsed a set of my music with Earl's band to prepare for a special performance in the Sanctuary right after the Chuck Loeb show. The resort has a beautiful spacious lobby with very high ceilings. We began our show a little early because the crowd began to gather in the lobby. Pretty soon, we had a very enthusiastic audience enjoying every note! What was supposed to be a laid-back late set became quite a party! I saw Rick in the crowd and I told him to go get his horn. Soon Earl was plugging in his guitar and performed two of his songs in the second set. For the encore, we were joined by Rick, Earl, and Ray Parker Jr. We thought we were finished, but the audience stayed on their feet until Rick started playing some blues. We all joined in and the crowd never wanted it to end. It was an incredible night I will never forget! After the show, I was speaking to Rick Braun and he made me aware that Richard Elliot was not going to be able to play with him on Friday. I excitedly volunteered and the next afternoon found myself at Rick's soundcheck to prepare for the show. We had a blast Friday night; it is always great playing with Rick! (I have performed with him on several Smooth Jazz Cruises.) The weekend concluded with a very tasty set with Earl and David Benoit on Saturday night right after Natalie Cole. We played some of my favorite songs by David along with Earl's exceptional compositions. It was a fitting end to an incredible weekend of music! I can't wait until Earl Klugh's next Weekend of Jazz in April in Colorado!
Tom, Earl Klugh, Ray Parker Jr., Michael Lington & Band
David Benoit, Tom, Earl Klugh & Band
Tom with Ray Parker Jr., Rick Braun, Earl Klugh & Band
Sunday, May 18, 2014
First Trip to Japan Was Amazing!
Earl Klugh Tour to Tokyo:
It can be difficult to summarize some of life's wonderful experiences in words and pictures. On this inaugural trip to Japan, I found myself telling my wife many times, "The pictures we are taking won't do justice to this scenery; you just have to be here and enjoy it with your own eyes!"
Sharon and I departed Dallas on our 24th Wedding Anniversary, April 28, for Japan. Thirteen hours later, our nonstop flight landed at Norita Airport outside of Tokyo on Tuesday afternoon. After an hour ride into the city, we arrived at the amazing Hotel Okura. The warm hospitality started immediately and continued throughout our stay in this wonderful city. We had big plans for that first day but ended up falling fast asleep after we checked into our room. We decided to enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants in the hotel, and fortunately for us, they were still open. The chef cooked for just the two of us at the table on the hibachi; it was amazing!
Wednesday it rained all day so we postponed our city tour and visited a beautiful mall in the Rappongi Hills area. After a short cab ride, we strolled through the five-story complex filled with shops, fountains, restaurants, and attractions. We decided to have lunch while we were there and it was delicious!
Thursday was an actual work day so we had a soundcheck at the Cotton Club, which is a very elegant venue with a warm sound and an even warmer staff. Earl Klugh had performed there many times, but it was my first so I enjoyed every minute of it. We played two shows a night and it was a packed house for almost every performance. Earl played beautifully, and it was evident that he has an enormous following in Japan. The audiences were extremely attentive, enthusiastic, gracious, and grateful. After the first show each night, we were treated to a sumptuous feast, and after the second show, we signed CDs. That is when I met Acki and Yuji. They both had several of my recordings that they wanted autographed. Yuji had Bounce, Katallasso, Imagine This, and Endless Highway, plus he purchased my new one, The Next Chapter! Sharon quickly called him my "No. 1 Fan in Japan"! We sold quite a few discs and made some new fans. It was great exposure for me!
Friday was our big adventure to the Oriental Bazaar in one of the shopping districts. Sharon and I braved the Tokyo subway system and we didn't get lost thanks to the great map and directions from the concierge at the hotel! The area was packed with shoppers and we walked around for several hours and dropped into a coffee shop that reminded us of New York.
Saturday we spent the entire morning on a tour of the city. We visited the Tokyo Tower. (I took many pictures from the observation deck.) We also visited a temple area that was beautiful, and we witnessed the end of a Spring ceremony and a wedding plus read large panels about the history of Japan. (I love history!) The botanical gardens adjacent to the emperor's quarters were absolutely breathtaking, and they fit in nicely with all of the beautiful flora and fauna of Tokyo. We viewed many government buildings and learned a great deal about the city from our delightful tour guide. We returned just in time to enjoy the hot tub and sauna at the hotel before the Saturday performance.
Sunday our flight didn't leave until the evening, so after breakfast we strolled through the area near our hotel. We paid attention to our surroundings because it is easy to get lost in Tokyo, especially if you are from Texas! The American, Spanish, and Swedish embassies were all right next door to the hotel. It was a gorgeous day with tons of flowers and sunshine.
As we settled in for the long return flight, we reflected on how much we packed into a few days. It was truly a remarkable trip for Sharon and me!
David Spradley, Tom, Earl Klugh, Ron Otis, and Al Turner at the Cotton Club; Tom at the
autograph table with Yuji, his "No. 1 Fan in Japan"; Tom and Sharon enjoying the beautiful city of Tokyo
Monday, March 3, 2014
Fantastic Time at Java Jazz Festival
As I settle into my seat on the airplane and prepare for 20+ hours of flying, it is a perfect time to reflect on my amazing experience in Jakarta, Indonesia at the Java Jazz Festival. I have been in Jakarta since Wednesday afternoon, February 26. Even after the long plane rides to arrive in Indonesia, I was still very excited to be a part of such a fantastic week of music. We were greeted at the airport by the gracious representatives of the festival. They assigned each of us a liaison to assist us while we were in Jakarta. My assistant was named Novani. She was a real blessing and helped me throughout the busy week of concerts, appointments, meetings, rehearsals, and workshops. It took us almost two hours just to get to the hotel due to the gridlocked traffic. I thought L.A. and New York traffic was intense! Mopeds, motorcycles, buses, and cars clog the busy streets, and at many intersections and merges, there are no traffic lights. However, I never saw an accident; everyone knew how to coexist on the bustling roadways. I saw an entire family of four people fly past our bus on a moped!
The Borobudur was a magnificent 5-star hotel with luxurious rooms, excellent food, and many wonderful amenities. I really enjoyed the running track that weaved through the lush botanical gardens behind the hotel. Fortunately, I had a day and a half to try to get acclimated to the 13-hour time difference. (It still didn't work. I would suddenly get sleepy at strange times during the day, and then wake up in the middle of the night.)
The festival's hospitality was incredible and the people of Indonesia were very gracious and helpful. Thursday night, we were all invited to the opening gala for Java Jazz. After light refreshments, Dave Koz and the Summer Horns performed for the excited crowd and a delicious buffet was served. I don't have enough space to tell the complete scope and magnitude of this festival and all the artists that appeared...Natalie Cole, Rick Braun, Gerald Albright, Keiko Matsui, Richard Elliot, Norman Brown, Jeff Lorber, and Jonathan Butler, just to name a few. That doesn't even include the scores of international artists from all over the world. (I rode in the van with a Brazilian band. Somehow I managed to communicate with musicians that only speak Portuguese!)
Novani (my assistant) and I went to the festival on Friday to listen to some artists and preview where I was going to perform. I wasn't prepared for the size of this event. Novani told me about 70,000 people attend Java Jazz every year!! That night, there were people everywhere and a total of 17 stages! Hi-tech booths, vendors, and light displays were all around the JIExpo Center. There were 187 shows in 3 days!!! It was overwhelming!! I caught some of Jeff Lorber, Everett Harp, and Chuck Loeb, and walked around for awhile to drink in the experience. Wow!! I was scheduled to perform on Saturday and Sunday with the very talented Tony Monaco, a jazz organist from Ohio. I met with Tony, Fareed (his guitarist), and Greg Fundis (drummer) to plan our performances. It was great to perform music in a different genre with such talented artists. Our shows in the Straight Ahead Jazz Hall were very well attended, and the enthusiastic fans clamored for autographs and pictures afterwards.
I also had the opportunity to teach a clinic on Sunday afternoon. Many saxophonists and jazz lovers attended and we had a great time. I was invited to perform in the George Duke Tribute Show on Sunday night with trumpeter Maurice Brown, Lorber, Loeb, and former Duke band members. The huge crowd showed its appreciation for the jazz legend. We played all of the Duke tunes that we had learned and they still wanted more!!
As we gathered in the lobby, hugged, and took pictures until next time, it felt like one large family from all over the world. When I got on the bus to head to the airport and waved to Novani, I knew I was going to miss my new friends in Jakarta, but I am definitely looking forward to my next visit to the beautiful country of Indonesia!
Java Jazz Festival: Banner at JIExpo; action on stage (photo by Andy Yusuf);
exploring Expo with festival liaison, Novani
Java Jazz Festival: At gala with local in ceremonial dress; action on stage (photo by
Adrian Chia); Jakarta airport with Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot & Dave Koz
Monday, October 7, 2013
The Nile Gold Jazz Safari Sold Out!!
THANK YOU, UGANDA! The Nile Gold Jazz Safari was a sellout!! The hospitality was amazing and the country was beautiful! I was part of a great lineup which included Keith Sweat, Patches Stewart and The John Blackwell Project. We had a fantastic time performing for the enthusiastic crowd! After we arrived in Kampala, it was very busy -- press conference, rehearsal, interviews and a jam session with local musicians! We also toured the Rotary Cancer Centre at Nsambya Hospital. Proceeds from the Jazz Safari will benefit the Maureen Mugoya Breast Cancer Ward under construction. This exciting trip was well worth the 20 hours of flying! I look forward to returning to Africa soon!
The Nile Gold Jazz Safari in Kampala, Uganda with Patches Stewart
(Photos via Nile Gold Uganda)
Touring the Rotary Cancer Centre at Nsambya Hospital; festival billboard in Uganda
(Photos via Nile Gold Uganda)
Sunday, August 11, 2013
The Blue Note in New York with Earl Klugh
Even though I have been home for almost a week, I am still hearing the music from the Earl Klugh shows in my mind. I can close my eyes and still see the inside of the Blue Note in New York. I had plenty of time to absorb the music since we performed 12 shows in 6 days from Tuesday to Sunday! It was my very first time at the historic Blue Note, and every night I could look around the walls and see the black and white pictures of famous musicians such as Lionel Hampton, B.B. King, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie, just to name a few. The audiences were enthusiastic, respectful, and extremely attentive every night. On top of that, I met people from Brazil, Africa, Italy, Russia, Israel, Germany, France, and more!
Since we performed at night, I had my days fairly clear to do a little exploring. I have been to New York before but I had never stayed in Greenwich Village, which is near the Blue Note. The club was about a 15-minute walk from the hotel, so I went over and practiced every afternoon in the upstairs dressing room. One day, I walked down to Wall Street which was about a half mile away. There were tons of people in the area and it was stimulating to view one of the world's business centers. After taking some pictures, I headed to the 9/11 Memorial. I didn't have time to enter the museum, but I walked around the site. It was exhilarating to see the new towers rising from the ashes of the fallen ones. It is a massive building project that shows the resiliency of the New York people. Of course, I had to grab a sandwich from a New York deli and Earl Klugh took the entire band to a beautiful restaurant called Tao. (The lobster fried rice was amazing!) On Sunday, we were invited to a cookout that featured more delicious food, and the Blue Note fed us every night. If I had stayed in NYC much longer, I would have gained more weight!! (I resumed my running workouts as soon as I returned home.)
I have been to New York on several occasions and the sights and sounds never disappoint me. I love the pace, the people, the skyline, and the music! I am looking forward to my next time in the Big Apple!!
The Blue Note with Earl Klugh: Soundcheck and Performance (Photo 3 by Danny Wilk)
NYC Sites: Wall Street Station, New York Stock Exchange, New World Trade Center
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Ian Wins GOLD at USATF National Championships
Wow! My son, Ian, did it!! He won 2 GOLD MEDALS at the USA National Youth Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Edwardsville, IL!! He was 1st in the 100m and 200m dashes! This was his first out-of-state meet. So proud!!
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Trip to South Africa with Earl Klugh
I am so excited about my trip to South Africa that I can't wait until I return home to post my blog. I am still on the 15-hour flight from Dubai at 38,000 feet and the wonderful memories are still fresh. It is difficult to know where to begin because there is so much to tell.
First of all, Emirates Airlines made the long journey a real pleasure. Reading, movies, sleeping, and lots of food made the time pass quickly. It was a 14-hour flight to the beautiful city of Dubai. I was only there 2 hours for a quick layover and then I boarded an 8-hour flight to Johannesburg.
The Winston Hotel was splendid and the weather was fantastic. I wasn't aware that South Africa was entering wintertime just as we are beginning the hot spring and summer, so it was between the 60s and 40s. Everywhere I went, the people were gracious, polite, and helpful.
I walked around the block to a mall and purchased some souvenirs on Wednesday, my day off, and then we had a brief rehearsal with Basi, a percussionist from Johannesburg. Thursday, we prepared for the concert with a soundcheck in the beautiful Lyric Theatre which was about 40 minutes away in the busy metropolitan traffic. During this trip, I was treated to a brief view of downtown "JoBerg," as the locals call it. Earl Klugh put on an amazing show on Thursday night. The audience knew all of his songs and sang along with most of them. He played solo guitar and the audience watched in silent awe as you could literally hear a pin drop. We performed for almost 2 hours and the enthusiastic crowd still didn't want us to stop after an encore! Afterwards, fans lingered in the lobby for up to 90 minutes to buy CDs, take pictures, and collect autographs.
Friday was a special day for me because I took a personal tour to Soweto with a new friend named Tom from JoBerg. We spent several hours touring the historic area of about 3.5 million that is about 20 minutes from downtown. I saw mining shanties, markets, the largest hospital in Africa, and talked to a few residents while we took pictures. One of the highlights was visiting the homes of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. I didn't realize that they are on the same street and in the same block!! I had lunch outdoors at a wonderful restaurant right next to Tutu's home. I met the owner and was entertained by Zulu dancers. We visited some churches in the area that played major roles in the collapse of Apartheid and also took a picture of Winnie Mandela's home. I love history and I learned a great deal from my tour guide, who incidentally is a sax player.
Friday night's show was fantastic as well. The theater was almost sold out and the audience was just as enthusiastic as the night before. We spent another 90 minutes in the lobby with some very appreciative fans and made new friends. I even spotted some fans from the Smooth Jazz Cruises!! The long ride home gave me the opportunity to reflect upon the great opportunity I was afforded to work with jazz legend Earl Klugh and enjoy the wonderful passion and hospitality of the South African people. Thank you!!
Tom with Earl Klugh at the Lyric Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa
(Photos by Eunice Driver)
Tom sightseeing in Soweto, South Africa; watching Zulus perform traditional dances
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Smooth Jazz Cruise 2013
The Smooth Jazz Cruise is a high point of our year. It is an opportunity to perform with some of the most talented musicians in the world for two straight weeks!! Not only do I share the stage with some of the top names in the genre, I get to perform my own shows and garner new fans from all over the world. This was my eighth jazz cruise, and the excitement began in Burbank during rehearsals. Rick Braun, Candy Dulfer, Jonathan Butler, Brian Culbertson and Jeff Golub all brought their "A" game. A high point for me was Friday morning when Bob James walked into our rehearsal. He is a jazz legend, and I was anticipating playing his compositions. Interestingly, Brian Simpson, the ship's music director, emailed us a brand new song early that morning that Bob had just written for the cruise. The song, "Sea Goddess," was premiered on the ship to rave reviews. It was a fitting end to the week when David Sanborn walked in. I had to pinch myself as I stood next to these two jazz giants. Right after rehearsals concluded in Burbank, I traveled down to Seal Beach for my show at Spaghettini. It was a sold-out night at the popular jazz venue...what a fantastic "Bon Voyage Party"!
The first week at sea was amazing with mesmerizing performances by all of the headliners and standout shows in the Ocean Bar and Queen's Lounge. As usual, the fans are the true stars of the cruise. They are always enthusiastic, excited and eager to hear this great music. Also, the gospel show led by Jonathan Butler was a highlight of both weeks and a blessing to so many. I witnessed history when Bob James, David Sanborn and Marcus Miller performed all of the music from the landmark Double Vision recording from 1986 at a special late night concert. Words cannot express the emotions that flooded over me while I listened to these jazz heavyweights recreate the magic that they recorded almost 30 years ago. It was an amazing moment for me and everyone else in the Vista Lounge. My two shows in the Ocean Bar were packed with new and old fans. I also shared the stage with Braun, Dulfer, Butler, Golub and Culbertson.Bob James featured me on his set and our chemistry was undeniable!! Patches Stewart (the fantastic trumpet player) and I were the horn section for the Vista artists, but we also ran down to the Queen's Lounge and joined cruise music director Brian Simpson and others after hours. Before the cruise, I said I wouldn't do the late night pizza and pasta, but you know what happened...after burning all of those calories, I found myself in front of a plate of food at 2:00 in the morning...oops. Fortunately, I did do some running that first week.
Week 2 was fantastic as my wife, sister and parents joined me. First of all, when my family prepared to board the ship, I mentioned my parents' ages to the ship's crew so they could pre-board (Mom is 91 and Dad is 93). When the boarding director discovered that it was their anniversary, he made an announcement and allowed them to be the first people to board the entire ship!! Sunday night started with a bang on Rick Braun's show. I mentioned to him that my parents were celebrating their 68th Wedding Anniversary on January 20th. He stopped his show, turned up the house lights, made my parents stand and dedicated a song to them! Later that week, Michael Lazaroff and Dane Butcher (the cruise executive director and director) treated us to a fantastic meal at the Pinnacle restaurant to continue their celebration. They also renewed their vows on the ship's deck at sunset — how romantic! To top off the week, Dad performed with me at both of my shows and brought the house down. He received a standing ovation both nights!! By the end of Week 2, I had played my heart out and it was time to return home...I'm still recovering, but it was sooooo worth it. We created some memories that will last a lifetime.
Cruise rehearsal in Burbank with Bob James, Brian Culbertson, Paul Taylor and Patches Stewart
Performing on the Vista Stage with Rick Braun, Patches Stewart, Marcus Miller, Candy Dulfer
and others (photo 1 by Rhonda Lane; photo 2 by Smooth Travel)
Backstage with David Sanborn; playing the blues with Dad in Ocean Bar;
Mom & Dad celebrating 68th Wedding Anniversary on the ship (photos 2 & 3 by Peter Kind Photography)
I'm sitting in the comfy seats at Cowboys Stadium with Sharon (wife) and Julian (son). Marcus High School made the playoffs! My son, Ian, is in the band (pictured below in his uniform) and performed at halftime. This month, Marcus Band made history as they won the Texas State UIL Marching Band Championship for the 4th time in a row!! GO MARCUS!
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Spectacular Concert at Three Caves
I haven't been to Huntsville, Alabama in years. It was a real pleasure to return to such a hospitable area. As soon as I arrived, I was treated like family. I've never performed in an old rock quarry before, so I didn't know what to expect. WOW, IT WAS GREAT!!! The musicians were fantastic and the audience was wonderful. The energetic and sold-out crowd was enthusiastic and supportive from the first note to the finale! Check out Photo Gallery 3 to see all the beautiful pictures from this very special night that were taken by friends Ray Park and Dollie Pankey. I can't wait to return to Huntsville!!
Photo by Ray Park
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Fun Christmas Shows at Rockbox Theater
Christmas at Rockbox has been an amazing experience! We perform six shows every weekend and almost all of them have been sold out. The talented cast brings the Christmas season to life through songs from many different genres of music from classic holiday favorites to country and jazz. There are even two guitarists dressed in Santa suits singing a ZZ Top song. The Blues Brothers also make an appearance right before Old St. Nick himself! MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Photos by Barry Smith
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Great Concert at Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
Thanks for your support, Southern California fans! We had a blast at the Hyatt show last night! There was great music, food and weather! I enjoyed jamming with Andre Delano. See more pics in Photo Gallery 3 soon.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Fun Weekend in Fredericksburg
The Mother's Day weekend in Fredericksburg turned out to be a very special blessing. First of all, the Rockbox Theater performers and staff are some of the nicest people that I have ever met -- what a professional operation! I really enjoyed performing there! Secondly, the town is such a neat place to visit. There are tons of cafes, shops and a few museums as well. My whole family made the trip and they are so glad that they did. We spent the weekend at the River Road Ranch Resort. We enjoyed the goats, llamas, horses, chickens and longhorns. When I stepped out of my front door, I was greeted by a porcupine! (Fortunately, he was friendly.) We also drove some ATVs and kayaked up and down the Pedernales River! It was nice to just sit on the porch and relax for a few minutes after a busy day. I am looking forward to returning the second week of June!
Check out the Braxton family at the ranch:
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Winter Wonderland in Dallas
We're iced in!! I got back from the warm cruise Sunday night and we have been in snow and ice since Tuesday. The kids are loving it -- no school since Monday!
Friday, February 4, 2011
The Greatest Party at Sea
Incredible! That's how I would describe my 2 weeks at sea with the Smooth Jazz Cruise! Here are some of the highlights: jamming with George Duke, trading solos with Marcus Miller, talking reeds and horns with David Sanborn, and kicking horn parts with Patches Stewart! I'm definitely looking forward to cruising again in 2012!
Below is a glimpse of the fun on stage with Marcus Miller, Jeff Golub, Patches Stewart and Candy Dulfer. More photos will be posted soon in the Photos section. Stay tuned!
Photos by Byron Lewis and Lorraine Holmes
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Great Experiences on the Keiko Matsui Tour in Eastern Europe
I have always been fascinated with far-away places. You can't get much farther away from Texas than Russia! When I was invited to perform with Keiko Matsui in Eastern Europe (Russia, the Ukraine and Azerbaijan) for three weeks, I couldn't wait to board the plane! Images of the Red Square, the Kremlin and the old Soviet Union flooded my mind. Some of the grand architecture I had seen in books I was about to witness first hand. Plus, I was about to travel to a country that produced some of my favorite composers: Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Mussorgsky.
I wasn't disappointed. The rich culture of the region coupled with the passion for music created a wonderful atmosphere for Keiko's concerts. There is a deep appreciation for music that was overwhelming at times. We were treated with great respect and admiration, and you could hear a pen drop during the performances! Every performance included at least one encore and usually two wouldn't suffice -- the audiences continued to applaud well after we had disappeared from their view. Keiko could have opened a floral shop with all of the beautiful flowers and roses she was given every night.
The pace was furious -- we traversed the country on planes, trains, automobiles and buses. The cities were modern and exciting and the rural countryside was peaceful and engaging. We had to wait on the tour bus while a herd of goats crossed the road!! Baku, Azerbaijan was a beautiful city -- I am so glad I took a quick tour. Some areas looked like Rodeo Drive in LA. Enjoy the pictures of the entire tour in Photo Gallery 11.
Thank you people of Russia, the Ukraine and Azerbaijan! I look forward to returning to your countries.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Smooth Jazz Europe Festival 2010
It was an exciting and historic return trip to the Netherlands! First of all, Smooth Jazz Europe put on a great festival in Hengelo. Playing with Bob Baldwin and Chieli Minucci was wonderful, not to mention the very enthusiastic audience. The people at the show were with us from the first note, and we flowed together through our musical journey for over 2 hours! It was difficult to know who had more enjoyment -- the musicians or the audience!
I stayed a few extra days and experienced the hospitality of the northern region of the country in Veenwouden. I also visited the U.S. Consulate in Amsterdam with Inge and Marijn (from Smooth Jazz Europe). They are huge smooth jazz fans! After riding the train, I visited one of the largest sax shops in Holland -- De Saxofoonwinkel. I could have spent a lot of money in there. The shows were great Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday night, the raucous crowd wouldn't let us stop playing until 2 a.m.! It was a great trip and I can't wait to return.
Below are festival photos with Bob Baldwin and Chieli Minucci. Visit Photo Gallery 10 to see more photos of the entire Netherlands trip.
Photos by Walter Goyen
Friday, July 23, 2010
"Open Road" Summer Fun
Hi everyone! I hope you're having a great summer! I've been spending a lot of time on the "Open Road" in Texas and California. During the 4th of July weekend, I drove with my family to Lubbock where I performed at the College Baseball Awards Show and the 4th on Broadway Celebration. Even though there was a lot of rain, my sons (Ian and Julian) got a chance to go fishing with their granddad, J.T. I also showed them the track I ran on in high school. In fact, some of the road trips this summer have been to my sons' track meets, including the Junior Olympics Regionals in Abilene.
On the West Coast, I had a great time performing with Keiko Matsui in Hollywood and Temecula. She's an amazing artist! I did a little driving between Reno, Meadow Vista and Sacramento for several gigs and a TV appearance. One of the highlights in June was the concert at Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula. The venue and audience were fantastic!!
This has been a busy but fun summer on the road. Check out the video and photos below. For all the latest tour photos, visit Photo Gallery 3.
Performance of "Open Road" at Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula, CA
West Texas Highway ~ True inspiration for the single, "Open Road"
Fishing in Lubbock, TX ~ J.T., Julian and Ian
Ian and Julian on the same track that I trained on in high school!
Also, the old field house where I prepared for workouts!
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Fun at the Capital Jazz Fest
Wow! I haven't been on this stage since I played it with Wayman Tisdale two years ago. It's wonderful returning as a featured artist. Today, I performed my new single, "Open Road," and two of my other songs as well as jammed with Brian Simpson, U-Nam and the Urban Jazz Coalition. We all had a great time! Except for the rain while we were autographing CDs, it was perfect. Even through the downpour, no one left!! I also got a chance to talk with several great artists -- Patrice Rushen, Jeff Lorber, Gerald Albright and Eric Marienthal.
Here's a photo of me and Brian Simpson on the Pavilion Stage. (Photo by Bernard Flagg)
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Hi Everyone! Summer is almost here and it's time to hit the "Open Road." There are some exciting tour dates coming up within the next few months. I've been invited to perform at the Capital Jazz Fest this week for the first time as a featured artist. (I've played it before with Wayman Tisdale.) I am looking forward to seeing my East Coast friends and fans!! I will also be heading west to perform in California and the wonderful city of Chicago in the Midwest. I can't wait to see you -- let's pack every performance by spreading the word every way you know how! I may be coming to your area soon, so keep your eyes on the Tour Schedule.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The Netherlands Tour Photos and Videos
Be sure to visit Photo Gallery 9 and the Media page to check out all the great photos and videos of my amazing experiences on the Netherlands Tour!! I was always surrounded by great musicians on stage and treated to warm hospitality off stage. You'll even see me riding a bicycle, which is a frequent mode of transportation there. Also, see photos from the Master Class that I conducted at the Pop Academy in Leeuwarden. The students were fantastic! There are also video highlights of exciting club performances and a LIVE "on-air" radio station performance. Check them out!
I'd like to extend a big "Thank You" to Inge Wenzel (Manager of Public Relations, Smooth Jazz Europe) for putting this tour together. I can't wait to return to the Netherlands later this year for the Smooth Contemporary Jazz Festival.
Below is just a glimpse of the fun:
Monday, April 5, 2010
At the London Airport
I am sitting here at the London Heathrow Airport with my head still spinning from the fantastic week I experienced in the Netherlands! I have been in the airport most of the day on a long layover, so I have had an opportunity to reflect on the exciting performances and wonderful people that I met. So much happened that there is no way I can squeeze it all into one blog. I took lots of photos! They will be posted soon to help you get a clear picture of the awesome week in Holland.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Leaving for the Netherlands
Excitement is building as I pack my bags for my first trip to the Netherlands. There is so much to do when you are going to be in Holland for a week! I can't wait to play my music outside the states. I will take lots and lots of pictures!
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Beautiful Weekend at Lord of the Harvest Church in Corpus Christi
Corpus is one of our favorite places to play. The people there are so warm and friendly. That kind spirit that we know and love was definitely in full bloom at the Lord of the Harvest Church. Sharon and I had the awesome privilege of ministering to that congregation for an entire weekend (Feb. 27 & 28). Sharon kicked things off on Saturday with an explosive session for the ladies entitled "Ruth...A Woman of Honor...Committed to Doing God's Will No Matter What the Cost." There were close to 60 ladies there and Sharon treated them to a beautiful dance to the song "Draw Me Close" followed by a verse-by-verse study of the Book of Ruth. We ministered both Sunday morning services with a message on your "Divine Design." We had two powerful services! Finally, we wrapped it up with me in concert Sunday night followed by an anointed altar ministry time. Sharon and I left Corpus glowing and expectant of great blessings ahead!
Monday, February 8, 2010
Performing with Toby Keith at OU-Texas Game Honoring Wayman Tisdale
Saturday, February 6, was a very special day for me, my family and the members of Wayman Tisdale's band. Before a sold-out crowd at the OU-Texas game, Wayman was honored for the great legacy he left at OU and to the Oklahoma community. Wayman's band jammed on his music as the enthusiastic audience packed the arena before game time. We played a lot of Wayman's greatest hits, including "Can't Hide Love" and "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now." Then I performed the National Anthem right before tip-off on ESPN!! (See the video of the National Anthem on the Media page.) To top things off, after a wonderful short film about Wayman at halftime, we performed with the award-winning country artist, Toby Keith. We played the emotional tribute that Toby wrote for Wayman entitled, "Cryin' for Me (Wayman's Song)". (See the video of the halftime performance on the Media page.) I had quite a bit of time to hang out with Toby at rehearsal and during the game. Not only is he a stellar musician, but he's a great guy! He took out time to "kid around" with my sons, Ian and Julian, and posed for pictures.
Below are a few photos: National Anthem, halftime performance, Toby Keith with the Braxton family (Sharon, Ian, Julian) and rehearsal. Wayman Tisdale band members are: Mark Harper (guitar), Arlington Jones (keyboards), Braylon Lacy (bass) and Arthur Thompson (drums, percussion). Visit Photo Gallery 3 for more tour photos.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Great Time on the Smooth Jazz Cruise
WOW! What a week!! We had another fantastic experience aboard the Smooth Jazz Cruise. I performed with Earl Klugh, Rick Braun, Peter White, Jeff Golub and Keiko Matsui. Wednesday night was a very special night entitled "A Celebration of Life" that was dedicated to Wayman Tisdale. Marcus Miller, Jonathan Butler and I performed Wayman's beautiful ballad, "Sunday's Best," to an appreciative and tearful audience. In the Ocean Bar, my dad, J.T., joined me on stage again this year for a few blues numbers. My Endless Highway CDs sold out, and I enjoyed meeting all the fans and signing autographs. We even got a few minutes to recline on the beach at Half Moon Cay! I hope that your year is off to a great start like ours. See you at the next gig!
Photos from the cruise will be posted in the Photo Gallery soon. Below is a glimpse of the fun:
Monday, November 23, 2009
Exciting California Tour
My recent California tour was simply "off the chain"! The first stop was the Kyoto in Los Angeles on Nov. 12, where I was the featured artist at 94.7 The Wave's Smooth Jazz Thursdays event. I had a lot of fun jammin' with U-Nam, who sat in on guitar. We played several tunes from my new CD, such as "Endless Highway" and "That Wayman Smile," which put the crowd in a dancing mood. Brian Culbertson was also on hand and joined me on trombone to play a Ronnie Laws' classic, "Always There." I closed the night on a "funk" note with Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues," featuring U-Nam. I had a lot of other great musicians in the band: Tony Moore on drums, Kevin Flournoy on keyboards and Rob McDonnell on bass. It was great to see Melanie Maxwell in the audience from Smooth Jazz News, who drove all the way from San Diego for the show.
On Nov. 14, I drove up to Stockton to play at Le Bistro Jazz Club. The place was packed and the fans were terrific! We had a great night of music! One of the highlights was the end of the night when we performed "That Wayman Smile" and "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" -- that really got a lot of the audience dancing. It was fun meeting people and signing CDs.
The final stop was in Long Beach on Nov. 15 at The Cellar. My CD Release Party was part of The ONE SOUL Jazz Series Hosted by U-Nam. The atmosphere was full of energy! The vibe reminded me of a New York club. It was great to see Gail Johnson (Smooth Jazz artist and Norman Brown's MD) in the audience. I was reunited with my LA band from Thursday night at the Kyoto, and they sounded fantastic! It was a fitting end to my CA tour. I definitely can't wait to get back!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Phenomenal Concert with Brian Simpson in Davenport
I had a great time hanging out with Brian Simpson and the Urban Jazz Coalition at the Smooth Jazz Fall Festival in Davenport, Iowa last month. The concert was SOLD OUT, and the enthusiastic crowd was fantastic! Everyone jumped to their feet on "That Wayman Smile!" When we played the last song, the crowd even demanded an encore! It was fun to meet all the great fans and sign autographs afterwards. Davenport is a wonderful city for jazz! Here's a photo with Brian Simpson and the Urban Jazz Coalition.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Wayman Tisdale's Induction Into Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame
I was in Tulsa a couple of weeks ago for the banquet gala celebrating Wayman Tisdale's induction into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. At the Jazz Depot, a commemorative sculpture was unveiled in Wayman's honor. The induction ceremony was very moving and uplifting. In tribute, I performed my latest single, "That Wayman Smile!" I was really honored to be a part of this celebration along with Regina Tisdale and family and friends. I'd like to extend a big "Thank You" to Chuck Cissel, the Hall of Fame CEO, for the invitation! Here are photos with Regina Tisdale, Chuck Cissel and the Wayman Tisdale Sculpture.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The Texas Jazz Festival Was Amazing
Wow!! What an amazing time I had at the Texas Jazz Festival this year!! The crowd on Saturday night was probably one of the largest I have ever seen in Corpus. It was so exhilarating to perform before such an enthusiastic and receptive audience. Everyone really cheered when I played a few cuts from the new disc. One of the best things about the festival is the hospitality and friendliness of the people in Corpus Christi. The love I receive from the crowd every year makes this festival one of my favorites!!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
"The Pumpkin Geek" Is Awesome Artist
Want to see something cool??? While at the cancer benefit in Sacramento, I was presented with a special "hand-carved pumpkin" portrait of myself by The Pumpkin Geek. Visit www.thepumpkingeek.com to see a photo of my pumpkin along with ones for Michael Jackson, Elvis, Prince, Britney Spears and more. Alex Wer is such a talented artist! The craft pumpkins are so awesome in person -- photos really don't do them justice. Take a look!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Great Time in Sacramento for Breast Cancer Benefit
It was a great privilege to be part of the fight against breast cancer at the C.A.R.E. on the River benefit in Sacramento October 2. I'd like to extend a big "Thank You" to the event hosts who were extraordinary and treated me and my band like royalty. I had a wonderful time sharing my new music with all the Sacramento fans! Playing "That Wayman Smile" almost brought tears to my eyes as photos of our time on the road flashed on the big screen. I look forward to performing in Sac again soon!
Check out a few photos. The band members are: Cedric Lee (guest bassist), James Kings (keyboards/vocals), Daran DeShazo (guitar), Joseph Toliver (bass) and Arthur Thompson (drums).
Today was the official release of my new CD, Endless Highway. I'm really excited to share the music with everyone! I hope you enjoy it! It's now available through the Online Store, Amazon.com, iTunes and other music retail stores. Don't forget to get your copy!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
"That Wayman Smile" on Sacramento Radio!
I was so excited to hear that during this morning's drive-time in Sacramento, Smooth Jazz 94.7 KSSJ played my latest single, "That Wayman Smile," for the first time! I can't wait to see all the Sacramento fans this Friday at the Breast Cancer Benefit at Swabbie's on the River.
Monday, September 14, 2009
New Music Is Here!
It's almost time!! We have been working very hard to get some new music into your hands. I think you will really enjoy this new project! The band is learning new music, the new website is up and running, and we can't wait for you to hear the new material!! Spread the word!!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Thanks to Houston Fans
I'd like to extend a SPECIAL THANKS to all the Houston fans who drove down to San Antonio Friday for the show! It was a great surprise to see you, and I had fun hanging out backstage. Thanks for the support!!
Monday, August 3, 2009
Balcones Heights Jazz Festival
San Antonio was a blast!!!!!!!!!!! I had such a good time at the Balcones Heights Concert Series. Tons of people and lots of humidity -- my shirt was wringing wet and it was worth all of the sweat!! My sons, Ian and Julian, were on the road with me. After the show, we hit a popular burger place called Babe's for some great food. David Munoz, a local air personality, pumped out smooth jazz on the patio while we stuffed ourselves with pizza and hamburgers. I hope we get to do it next year!!!!!! Later...
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Sambuca in Atlanta
It was a blast performing at Sambuca's. The band, composed of some of Atlanta's finest musicians, was fantastic!! Toni Redd and I sounded like we have been playing together for years even though it was our first time to ever perform on the same stage!! It was fun seeing old fans and making new ones.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
In the Studio
I'm currently working on my new CD. I've had some long, hard days in the studio, but it will all be worth it in the end. Everything is sounding really good. I can't wait for you to experience the new music we're creating. The CD is very upbeat and will bring a definite smile to your face and add a "pep to your step." Stay tuned for more details! Here's a "sneak peek" inside the studio with Daran DeShazo (guitar), Arthur Dyer (vocals), Jason Thomas (drums) and Braylon Lacy (bass):
Monday, July 6, 2009
July 4th at Fair Park
I had a blast jammin' with Len Barnett (percussionist) and Ricky "Bongo" Cauthen (drums) at the Fair Park 4th of July Celebration on Saturday. We played outdoors near the Museum of Natural History. My "little guys" enjoyed the exhibits. Check out the photos:
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Great to Play in Tulsa
Sunday, I played the Living Room in Tulsa, OK. We had a very enthusiastic audience that wouldn't let us stop playing. It was the first time some of the members of Wayman's band had played together since the funeral. Even though we missed having "Tiz" with us, it was great to play with the guys again. The drummer, Arthur Thompson, was on fire Sunday night!!
Monday, June 29, 2009
Jazz Under the Stars
Great show!! There's no place like home. Great to have Claudia Melton adding her stellar vocals to the show. The audience didn't want us to stop playing. They created a dance floor right in front of the stage. I hope to do this series again next year!! Pictures will follow soon.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Performing with Aretha Franklin Was Awesome!
Wow! What a night!! That is the best way to sum up a concert with Aretha Franklin. I had the awesome opportunity to perform in concert with the living legend last Friday, June 12, at the WinStar Casino. The casino is just across the Oklahoma border out in the middle of nowhere. We drove up on Friday afternoon and rehearsed with Aretha's music director, HB Barnum, for 3 hours. My mind went down memory lane as we played through the music that had made Aretha a household name . . . songs like "NATURAL WOMAN," "JUMP TO IT" and "CHAIN OF FOOLS," just to name a few. That night, we took our places on the big stage and kicked off the overture of her many hits, and then the announcer bellowed her introduction. She was very personable with the audience. Then she opened her mouth and we all heard that unmistakable voice!! It was as if we had played together for years . . . she didn't miss a single cue or note. I was so lost in making music that I looked around and the show was over. It was a very memorable night . . . one that I will never forget! I sincerely hope that I have the opportunity to perform with Aretha again soon.
Below are photos of the band at rehearsal and backstage at the concert:
Thursday, June 11, 2009
San Antonio Jazz & Arts Festival
I had a blast at the San Antonio Jazz & Arts Festival. Although it was a little hot and humid, there was a cool summer breeze that made it a perfect evening for an outdoor concert. The crowd loved the music and the band's performance was awesome!! The added plus for me was having my wife, Sharon, with me as well as my sons Ian (11) and Julian (9). Several hours before the show, my family and I got a chance to hang out on the Riverwalk and grab a little lunch. San Antonio was beautiful as always and I can't wait to return on July 31st to play the Balcones Heights Jazz Festival. Hope to see you there!!
Monday, June 8, 2009
Wayman Tisdale Remembered
On May 15, 2009, one of my best friends, Wayman Tisdale, passed away due to complications related to bone cancer. We performed together for the last time in Florida on May 2, so I was shocked when I received the news of his death. Wayman was a big part of my life both musically and spiritually, and he was a trusted friend. His death has left a vacuum in my life; thus, I have deeply appreciated all of your phone calls, e-mails, text messages, words of encouragement, and prayers. Your kindness has been a great comfort to me.
Wayman left an incredible legacy and his life was a great example for all of us. He exemplified strength, a positive attitude, and a joyous spirit in the face of adversity. Even during the difficult days, Wayman always had a way of "lighting up the room" and making everyone he met feel special and important. I had the privilege of standing next to the "big guy" for 17 years, and I have some awesome memories that will be with me always. Wayman's laugh, smile, life, and music will live on!!
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