Monday, November 6, 2017
West Texas Walk of Fame Induction - October 19, 2017
My musical journey began on the dusty plains of West Texas, so it is fitting that I would return there many years later to be honored as a West Texas Walk of Fame inductee. On Thursday, October 19, 2017, Johnny Ray Watson (a renowned gospel singer), James Braxton (my father), and I were officially inducted into the West Texas Walk of Fame in a ceremony at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center. Johnny's award was given posthumously since he passed away a few years ago.
Due to earlier obligations, we couldn't leave Dallas for Lubbock until the day of the festivities, so we were prepared to leave early for the 5-hour drive to Lubbock. However, my wife, Sharon, had to stay behind (because of an illness in the family), but I took her speech with me because she was supposed to introduce me. I arrived just in time for a brief rehearsal in the afternoon with Dad and the quartet that was set to perform with us. We worked through our 3 songs and then it was time to go home and change quickly because we were due back at the theater for media interviews before the ceremony. At 5:30, Ruby (my sister), Dad, and I arrived at the Civic Center and were interviewed by two of the local news stations and the newspaper. It was really exciting! Dad and Ruby were in one area, Johnny's widow was in between us, and I was in the third area. I had been very busy leading up to the event, so the magnitude of this honor really started to "sink in" during the interviews. Dad and I were about to join Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Mac Davis, Jimmy Dean, Tanya Tucker, Roy Orbison, the Gatlin Brothers, and many others on the West Texas Walk of Fame!
Soon afterwards, we proceeded to the stage; behind us were 3 huge photographs projected on the curtain. After a brief welcome by the Mayor of Lubbock, each inductee was introduced starting with a video presentation of Johnny. Ruby introduced Dad and used Sharon's speech to introduce me as well. Dad and I thanked Civic Lubbock and the community for the honor.
The Master of Ceremonies said that it was time to hear some music and Dad grabbed his tenor and played a beautiful rendition of Errol Garner's classic composition, "Misty." I picked up my alto sax and joined him for one of Dad's jump tunes called "Blues #2." (I have never played #1!) The music concluded with my performance of "Endless Highway" and the crowd gave us a standing ovation. As soon as the ceremony ended, we were supposed to head upstairs to the reception, but so many well-wishers flooded the stage that we couldn't leave! My former junior high track coach and several friends that flew in without telling me they were coming surprised me! When we went upstairs to the reception, I saw more friends from high school and the community! I was humbled and emotionally stirred to see so many people take time out of their busy schedules to see our induction. The plaques will be permanently mounted outside on a huge curved wall next to a statue of Buddy Holly at the corner of 19th Street and the old Avenue in G in Lubbock. When I return to the "Hub City," I will take a picture at the sight. Thanks again Walk of Fame Committee!!
Tom Braxton speaking at 2017 West Texas Walk of Fame induction ceremony
Tom Braxton speaking | James Braxton receiving award with daughter, Ruby Braxton
2017 West Texas Walk of Fame induction ceremony
(Photos by A-J Media, Mark Rogers)
James Braxton (age 98) performing at 2017 West Texas Walk of Fame induction ceremony
(Photo by A-J Media, Mark Rogers)
Tom Braxton and father, James Braxton, performing together at
2017 West Texas Walk of Fame induction ceremony
Plaques for the 2017 West Texas Walk of Fame inductees:
Johnny Ray Watson, James Braxton, Thomas Braxton
(Photo by A-J Media, Mark Rogers)
Media interviews: Tom Braxton and James Braxton (with daughter, Ruby Braxton)
(Photos 2 & 3 by A-J Media, Mark Rogers)
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Algarve Smooth Jazz Festival in Portugal
It is going to be extremely difficult to capture in this blog my recent experience at the Algarve Smooth Jazz Festival in Portugal (September 26-October 1, 2017). As with almost any great musical adventure, it usually starts with quite a bit of travel. Sharon and I began on Monday afternoon, September 25th, with a flight to New York. After a brief layover, we then headed to London, and then after another layover, we boarded our British Airways flight to Faro, Portugal. The Braxtons have never been to Portugal, so we were very excited to say the least. After we landed on Tuesday afternoon, we enjoyed a scenic drive through the countryside from the airport to our hotel in Algarve. As we pulled up to the hotel, someone opened our car door and asked if he could take our bags. To my surprise, it was my good friend Kirk Whalum! He caught us off guard and we started our stay with a hearty laugh. After getting settled into our "home away from home" for a week, we attended a wonderful welcome dinner for some of the festival attendees and the artists. Christian Bossner, the festival promoter, had organized a sumptuous feast for us and we laughed and talked with avid jazz fans from literally all over the world. Kirk, Paul Brown, and I arrived on Tuesday for the gathering; due to scheduling, some of the other artists came a little later in the week. Kirk even brought his flute and played with the trio that was providing beautiful traditional Portuguese music for us on the scenic clubhouse terrace at Vila Vita Parc Resort.
Wednesday we rested and then decided to explore the area near our hotel. We relaxed by the ocean and caught our breath because we knew the week would be full of activities. Later in the afternoon, I rehearsed with Paul Brown for his show scheduled for Saturday afternoon. That night was the All-Star Jam that featured Kirk Whalum, Paul Brown, Jackiem Joyner, Larry Braggs, Oli Silk, Elle Cato, Keiko Matsui, and myself. The band backing us was amazing and was lead by bassist Orefo Orakwue from London. Everyone was featured on one song; then we combined on several jazz standards such as "Watermelon Man," "Cantaloupe Island," and "Mister Magic." The audience couldnít get enough and it was a joy to share the stage with my fellow headliners!
Thursday morning Sharon and I decided to join the dolphin-watching excursion bright and early. We boarded a powerful 35-seat boat and headed out into the Atlantic to look for dolphins and whales with our festival participants! The trip did not disappoint as we came alongside a 20-foot Minks Whale soon after we began. We were enjoying the incredible weather as we cruised alongside the shoreline when our captain suddenly fired up the engine and we started speeding away from the coast. He yelled, "You are the lucky ones todayÖthousands of people do this tour but everyone doesnít get to see the dolphins like this!" At that time, we didnít know he had a received a tip concerning a large pod of dolphins in the area. After a brief ride, we saw several boats in the area and lots of activity in the water. He was right...incredibly there was a large number of wild dolphins swimming and jumping in and out of the water! Iíll never forget the sight and neither will the rest of the people aboard our vessel! The affable captain said we were running short on time and he wanted to show us the world famous caves along the coast (see photos below). All up and down the coast we cruised in and out of these caves that housed beaches and sometimes sunroofs. It was a fitting end to a remarkable excursion.
Friday we explored the resort where the concerts were being held. Sharon enjoyed a relaxing time on the beach while I rehearsed with the band for my upcoming show. Friday night Sharon and I had the rare opportunity to just sit and enjoy a concert with Larry Braggs (including special guest Jackiem Joyner) and Kirk Whalum. Saturday began a very full day with my performance with Paul Brown and a rehearsal and performance with the legendary session guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. Sunday morning I kicked off the last day of the festival with my show followed by keyboardist Keiko Matsui. The audience was amazing and the backing band was incredible. It was one of the most enjoyable shows of my career!
One of the most endearing aspects of this festival is the "family" atmosphere. Even though there were jazz fans from Russia, Italy, Belgium, France, Spain, Germany, the US, and Poland to name a few, they all came together to enjoy the music and a very special weekend. Many have already attended Mallorca, Spain and Augsburg, Germany Festivals promoted by Christian. I ran into fans from the Smooth Jazz Cruise, Sandy Shore from Smoothjazz.com, and Richard Edwards from the SmoothGrooves Radio Show. He loves my arrangement of "Peg" by Steely Dan!
I canít say "thank you" enough to Christian and his team and all of the wonderful jazz fans that attended the festival. Between the great music, fellowship with the artists, and remarkable weather, it was truly an amazing experience!!
Visit Photo Gallery 19 for more photos from Portugal.
Tom's concert at Algarve Smooth Jazz Festival in Portugal
Bottom right photo: Backstage at All-Star Night - Tom with Jackiem Joyner,
Paul Brown, Marqueal Jordan, Kirk Whalum, Keiko Matsui, Larry Braggs
"Fun in the sun" on the beach | Tom with wife, Sharon, at resort
Boat excursion - view of world famous caves and wild dolphins
Monday, June 27, 2016
Exciting Trip to Ghana for the Stanbic Jazz Festival
Our plane arrives in New York in about an hour and a half, so as I cross the last portion of the Atlantic, it is a good time to reflect on the fantastic week I experienced in Accra, Ghana in West Africa.
My first trip to Ghana was last year with Earl Klugh on a short tour. I had an amazing time, so when my agent informed me months ago that the Stanbic Jazz Festival promoters wanted me to return as an artist, I was thrilled! I was scheduled to perform my set right before the legendary jazz icon Bob James! On top of that, I was going to be accompanied by Akablay (a renowned musician in Accra) and his band.
When I arrived in New York and we prepared to board the plane to Accra, I noticed Bob James and his band; we were all on the same flight. Bob quipped, "If I would have known you were going to be here, I would have had you play with us." (He was predicting the future...he has been so busy, he didn't know I was at the same festival.) At the big press conference Wednesday on the roof of the Stanbic Bank building, Bob referenced me again and I made a joke that I would sneak up and play kazoo on this set. Right after the press meeting, he and his manager, Sonny, informed me that there was a challenge with getting their guitar player to Ghana. They wondered if I would perform the 3 nights with Bob and of course I said YES! So I was set to perform my 2 shows on Friday and Sunday and Bob's 3 shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!
Thursday morning, my driver and I braved the crowded and bustling streets of Accra to find Akablay's recording and rehearsal studio. After finding it, we settled in for a quality rehearsal. The guys had really done their homework and knew my tunes very well. The funny part was that the band kept growing! We started with the basic rhythm section; then a percussionist arrived followed by 3 horn players. Soon there were almost 10 of us having a great time together. I have never played my music with a live horn section and it was refreshing and exciting!! The musicians also added their special African "flavor" to my music and I loved it! They played with inspiration and fervor and added special elements, some of which I had never heard before. That is the beauty of playing your music with great musicians from other cultures.
The first night of the festival was electrifying as Akablay and his large ensemble were red hot. They performed some traditional music and then I joined them for my set. It was so emotional I could barely play at times; I was so thankful to God for giving me this special opportunity to play my music on the other side of the world with these great players. (I was a long way from Texas!) The horn section came in at the end of "Kaanapali Beach" and "I Love Music"...I couldn't stop smiling! Then Bob James took the stage and we had a great set. It was his first trip to Ghana and he played like he was on fire! Carlitos (the bassist) and Jimmy (his drummer) were right with him from the first note. The audience went wild over the "Theme from Taxi," "Shamboozie," and "Westchester Lady," some of his biggest hits.
Saturday, I was worn out and slept in, which is unusual for me. It was another great night with Bob James after several opening acts from Africa. We performed "Sea Goddess," a piece that Bob debuted with me playing tenor sax on the Smooth Jazz Cruise. He mentioned that to the audience and told them it was only the second time it had been performed live.
Sunday was our final night with me again performing my show with Akablay's ensemble accompanying me. Bob James closed out the festival with another fantastic set, and then we spent quite some time in the lobby shaking hands and autographing CDs. The kind people of Ghana didn't want us to leave and showed their appreciation with gifts, kind words, and hospitality. One of the announcers said they felt like I was at home in Ghana and it is true. I look forward to my next time in this very pleasant country!
Visit Photo Gallery 17 for more photos from Ghana.
Tom Braxton and Bob James at Press Conference for Stanbic Ghana Jazz Festival
Tom Braxton performing on opening night (backed by Akablay and his band);
Tom on the final night performing his own show and joining Bob James
Festival signs in the lobby of Accra International Conference Centre
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Fantastic Time in Hawaii
Sharon and I are settling into our seats for the ride back to the mainland from the beautiful Hawaiian Islands with huge smiles on our faces. We had an incredible week of music at the brand new Blue Note Hawaii with Earl Klugh. In addition to that, we experienced a luau, whale watching, and lots of fun in the South Pacific.
The week started on Monday with a surprise luau that Earl's manager, Denise, scheduled for the band, crew, and all of our spouses. The event was held at the historic Royal Hawaiian hotel, which has been on the shores of Waikiki for many years and was a favorite retreat for many Hollywood celebrities. The luau featured authentic island cuisine and a show with dancers, fire-eaters, and actors all wrapped up in a stage production revealing the colorful history of Hawaii. Tuesday, the shows began at the Blue Note and the crowds were ready from the first note. From the first show on Tuesday to the 12th show on Sunday night, the enthusiastic fans packed the new venue and kept Earl onstage until we finished the encore! Afterwards, we signed autographs in the Blue Note gift shop. People bought CDs and memorabilia, and some fans even had Earl's first album for him to autograph! Also, Dave Lawrence from Hawaii Public Radio interviewed us backstage after a show. We enjoyed meeting him and had a great conversation.
Bright and early Wednesday morning, Denise had arranged a whale watching trip out into the bay. The Humpback Whales had migrated into the warmer South Pacific waters and they were all around us. It was amazing!! On our way into the marina, we passed a sea turtle cleaning station near a coral reef. There were colorful reef fish attending to the turtles and plenty of people snorkeling nearby in the turquoise waters.
We took a driving tour of a portion of the island. We drove into the Diamond Head Crater and enjoyed other fascinating sights including swimming at Lanikai, a private beach. One of the highlights was renewing our wedding vows on the beach at sunrise with 9 other couples. (We had dreamed of doing a ceremony like this on the beach because we spent our honeymoon in Maui 25 years ago!) The presiding pastor led us through our vows and blessed us in Hawaiian and English as we were serenaded by a vocalist/ukulele player. Also, a traditional hula dance was performed as the ceremony drew to a close.
Following the Blue Note shows on Sunday night, we woke up early on Monday for a quick flight to Maui. After a delicious breakfast, we returned to the hotel where we spent our honeymoon 25 years ago. It still looked great with new paint and some minor remodeling! Once we finished reminiscing, it was time to relax on the beach. A little later, we headed to Mama's Fish House on the beach. The restaurant has really grown since we were there years ago! The food was absolutely amazing the best seafood I have had in a long time!! We took some pictures and headed to a high ridge to watch the sunset and the surfers ride the enormous waves in the bay.
We took a short flight back to Honolulu and spent the rest of Monday and Tuesday with Eddie and Lorraine, some really great friends that we met aboard the Smooth Jazz Cruise. Their guest house just happens to have a front porch that is a few feet from a beautiful bay. Since our flight didn't leave until late on Tuesday, we planned a nice relaxing day to enjoy the ocean. Eddie and I grabbed one kayak and began a 30-minute journey out to a huge sandbar in the middle of the bay. After we left the shallows and began crossing a stretch of water, he calmly remarked that this part of the bay was very deep and frequented by many types of ocean fish including hammer head sharks! Thanks, Eddie!! Meanwhile, Sharon and Lorraine were exploring in another kayak and had the pleasure of viewing several sea turtles near the edge of the reef. We rowed out to the second sandbar and left the kayak. It felt funny to be walking around on land in the middle of the bay. The snorkeling was unbelievable as we spotted many species of fish in the warm water. To our right, Eddie pointed out an area across the bay where portions of the latest Jurassic Park movie had been filmed it was surreal! After we made our way back to shore, we feasted on authentic seafood gumbo that Eddie had prepared. It was a special afternoon eating a delicious lunch with friends right on the ocean with a perfect breeze and gentle waves providing the background music. (Sharon and I were deciding if we really wanted to return to Texas...just kidding!)
We packed so much into a week everything from great shows at the Blue Note to renewing vows, whale watching, kayaking, and so much more! We are looking forward to returning to this beautiful part of the world.
Visit Photo Gallery 18 to see all the great photos from Hawaii.
Blue Note Hawaii: Earl Klugh (guitar), Tom Braxton (sax & flute),
Al Turner (bass), Ron Otis (drums), David Spradley (keys)
Tom & Sharon renewing wedding vows on the beach (celebrating 25 years of marriage)
Fun in the water at Lanikai Beach | Lookout Point in Oahu
Sunset luau at the Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki | Band, crew, and spouses on whale watching trip
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
National Signing Day: Ian to Run Track at Baylor
Great News! After many years of hard work, very hot summers, endless workouts, and tons of meets, my son Ian has signed a National Letter of Intent to run track at Baylor University! He was awarded a full athletic/academic scholarship!! We are so proud! Check out these photos of the excitement at Marcus High School on National Signing Day and the graphic pic posted on Twitter by Baylor.
Braxton Family: Ian, Julian, Sharon, Thomas
Sunday, October 4, 2015
Stanbic Jazz Festival in Lusaka, Zambia (Earl Klugh Tour)
It's time for another blog about another great adventure in my world of music. As I sit back aboard the British Airways flight from Johannesburg to London, my mind starts replaying the wonderful memories I just experienced in Zambia. (Since I have 10 hours, it's a good time to start writing while the memories are fresh.) On iTunes, I am playing "It Happens Everyday," a very reflective piece composed by the late great Joe Sample of the legendary group The Crusaders. Just this week, we also lost tenor sax great Wilton Felder, one of my early inspirations growing up out in West Texas. Wilton, Joe, Wayne Henderson, and "Stix" Hooper began The Jazz Crusaders in the late 50's in Houston. I have great memories of listening to their albums in high school...but I digress...
It was my first time in Zambia and I was blown away by the warmth and hospitality portrayed by the Zambian people. I started with a 90-hour flight from DFW to London, then 10 hours to Johannesburg, then 2 hours to Lusaka. I was tired but I immediately became energized by the excitement of the promoter, Ignatius, when I arrived on Tuesday afternoon. I was the first of Earl Klugh's entourage to arrive because of my flight itinerary. I was treated like a diplomat and whisked away to a wonderful hotel where I quickly rested to prepare for a full day on Wednesday. Earl and the rest of the band arrived later that night and we began the next day with a press conference before a very enthusiastic group of reporters. Earl had never performed in Zambia and anticipation for his performance was building to a feverish pitch. We fielded questions from the warm media assembled and then did a quick TV interview before heading to the Stanbic Bank which was the biggest sponsor of the jazz festival. This has never happened to me before -- the door to the bank opened and when we entered the lobby, thunderous applause erupted and lasted for quite some time. The Stanbic employees were so happy to finally see and meet Earl after enjoying his music for so long. After a brief speech by the acting CEO, we took pictures with almost 100 very grateful fans at Africa's largest bank. It was so special! Earl and Denise (his wife and manager) patiently took pictures and then we took an enormous group photo with everyone in that part of the bank.
After that, we dropped by a wonderful college in Lusaka where the students performed some traditional Zambian music and Earl sat in on guitar. The jam-packed auditorium erupted in applause and shouting when Earl began playing along with the group -- it was truly amazing! Cultures that are thousands of miles apart enjoyed a very unique moment as they shared the universal language of music. The students will never forget that day! We went to the principal's office and signed a special guests register and took more pictures before departing the Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce. (Earl and Denise make it a practice on their tours to visit schools and encourage young people in the arts.)
Thursday was used to prepare and rest for the big weekend and then Friday began with a soundcheck at the festival stage. The lineup was packed with excellent African musicians and Earl was the headliner. By the time we took the stage about 10pm, excitement was at a fever pitch and the audience was ready. Earl was well received and of course his big hits "Across the Sand," "Tropical Legs," and "Heartstrings" were crowd favorites. "Wishful Thinking" was our encore and I looked in the audience and a lady had her face in her hands in disbelief; she kept shouting, "That's my favorite song!"
Saturday, Denise was attempting to arrange an excursion to the Victoria Falls, one of the 7th wonders of the world. Unfortunately, because it was the dry season and summer was beginning, the water was at a low point so our plans changed. When she announced we could leave the city and view lions, cheetahs, and other wildlife in the bush, I jumped at the opportunity. We trekked out to Chaminuka which was about an hour away on dusty back roads. It was so remote even the driver had to stop and ask for directions! While we were there, our guided tour included viewing lions, cheetahs, sables, impalas, waterbuck, cape buffalo, monkeys, and many other beautiful animals. I have never seen termite mounds over 6 feet tall!! I am very glad a strong fence separated me from the carnivores!
Saturday night, we had another great show at the festival and the new crowd was eager to hear Earl as well. Afterwards, we signed CDs and greeted adoring fans; people couldn't believe Earl was actually in Zambia and at the end of the show when the CEO of Stanbic Bank told the crowd to inform him who they want next year, they started shouting "Earl Klugh, Earl Klugh!!"
Sunday, we started our day at a wonderful market of arts and crafts. Everyone picked up beautiful handmade souvenirs and it was time to head to the airport for the journey back to the USA.
It was an incredible trip which I will never forget. Thank you, Zambia! I am looking forward to returning to your remarkable country!
Visit Photo Gallery 3 to see more photos from Zambia.
Tom, Earl Klugh & band at the press conference and soundcheck
Fun on wildlife safari at Chaminuka Nature Reserve;
visiting Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce
Stanbic Jazz Festival in Lusaka; Tom on the jumbo screen
(Photos 1, 2 & 3 by Stanbic Jazz Festival)
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Ghana: My First Trip to West Africa
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.
Visit Photo Gallery 3 to see more photos from Ghana.
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!
Visit Photo Gallery 3 to see all the great Weekend of Jazz photos.
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!
Visit Photo Gallery 16 to see all the photos from Japan.
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!
Visit Photo Gallery 3 to see all the photos from the Java Jazz Festival.
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!
Check out Photo Gallery 3 for all the tour photos from Uganda.
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!!
Check out Photo Gallery 3 for all the tour photos from South Africa.
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 ó 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)
Check out Photo Gallery 14 for all the cruise photos.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Marcus High School in Playoffs at Cowboys Stadium
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