Smitty: Yes, very cool. You just recently released the DVD from the Montreux Jazz Festival. Why that festival for a DVD? With all the projects and the live performances…I mean, you’ve done a million of ‘em, you know, why this festival for a DVD?
BJ: Well, it was a matter of timing, really. That concert, which dates back to 1986, was one of the real exciting highlights of my live performance career and I have very, very fond memories of it. I think everything went right on that night, I had a fantastic energetic band and we were all enjoying this trip to Europe very much, and that evening caught us, I think, at our best, but due to the complexities of different record labels and the variety of business things, that this recording had just been sitting on the shelf not being able to be seen. And I’d been pushing for quite a long time to try to get it released and it was finally made available and finally we had the right company that was interested in putting it out, so it was one of those things that was long overdue and I’m just happy to have it see the light of day, even if it took 20 years for it to happen.
BJ: Coincidentally, I was just in a conversation with Claude Nobs, who is the founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, and he was over in Singapore kind of introducing a new festival that’s a spin-off of the Montreux Festival that they are just starting up in Singapore, a new jazz festival.
BJ: But in talking to Claude, he was describing to me that he has hundreds of hours of videos from practically every event that was held at Montreux, a lot of which have still not been released too, so there’s more jewels in there that hopefully will see the light of day.
Smitty: Man, let’s hope it happens. One of the things I thought was just so cool when I first looked at the DVD, Live at Montreux, the young Kirk Whalum…he looked like a little boy. [Both laughing.]
BJ: I think we all did, but I look at myself there, I kind of don’t even recognize the change that has taken place over the last 20 years and When I go back and look at it, it’s just….I’m….I can’t believe we had that much energy….
BJ: And you see Gary King jumping up and down. Unfortunately, he passed away a year and a half ago, however, we all miss him very much and I’m happy that we have this record, at least of seeing some of the magnificent playing that he did and the energy and the creativity that he brought to the music. There was a lot about that performance that, to me, is very memorable.
Smitty: Yes, a wonderful recording. All of you guys look like, you know, some young energetic college students. Just out doing a gig, you know? Just making it happen.
BJ: Yeah, it was a time in the music that was quite different. I noticed that a lot in the way that Contemporary Jazz or whatever it was called at that time….there have been so many different words for this genre, you know, the most recent of which being the term “Smooth Jazz,” which none of us like, really, very much because it carries with it such a limited connotation.
BJ: But at that time, if you listen to the music from that concert, it was anything but just smooth. You know, we were playing some pretty high energy music at that time.
Smitty: Yes you were, I sure everyone get to see it because it’s fantastic, and Dean Brown…
BJ: Dean Brown was a wild man.
BJ: He still is. He’s mellowed a bit too. I was just reminiscing with him not too long ago when he was out on tour with David Sanborn’s band and we were remembering back on that era.
Smitty: Yes indeed. Let’s talk about your great new record. It’s called Urban Flamingo…first talk to me about the name because I must say first off I love this record. Great melodies, great grooves, and you’ve got an all star cast of musicians with you on this project. Unbelievable.
BJ: Thanks very much. I’m very proud of it. It’s kind of an eclectic record because it kind of took place….the recordings took place almost over three years, and due to a bunch of schedule complications, it took a while for it to actually get released, but I was able to showcase the guys that I’ve been traveling with on the road and being very happy about that because up until this Urban Flamingo project, I hadn’t really had a chance to have them on my recordings as much as I wanted, and speaking specifically about Al Turner and Ron Otis….
Smitty: Yes, phenomenal musicians!
BJ: ….the rhythm section, on bass and drums, respectively, and also David McMurray on sax, and then very notably the two guitarists, Wayne Gerard and Perry Hughes, and Perry Hughes plays some, I think, fantastic solos on this record and reminds me a lot of the late Eric Gale, who used to play on my albums, and both Perry and I talk a lot about Eric because we both admire his talent so much. You asked about the title Urban Flamingo, which was coined by a very dear friend of mine who lives in the same town where I live, and he and I do some visual art together and collaborate on paintings which we do via the computer. The art that I do is digital art and we had a small exhibition of our paintings in the local area in the city and we titled the evening of this exhibit “Urban Flamingo” after the style of the paintings, which were these drips which when as we were doing them, it reminded my friend of a flamingo.
They were actually inspired by some blobs of red paint that we saw on the walls of an office building in Montreal, Canada that took place after a big anti-war demonstration, and we’re pretty sure that some graffiti artist had run down the street with a big can of red paint and, in response to his feelings about the war rolled these red paint blobs up against the wall, and to us it became, in a very strange abstract kind of way, this beautiful red abstract art ala Jackson Pollack or whatever. So it’s very difficult for me to describe all of that in a short way.
But having been inspired by it, and I actually just loved the term “Urban Flamingo” no matter how you could take it. You could take it in this way of the intensity of urban life and the natural beauty of the flamingo who reside in the much calmer natural settings, and the contrast between those two words just sort of meant something to me.
Smitty: Yes. That’s a cool story. Even that title track on the record is fantastic. I mean, Wayne Gerard did some great guitar work there and Ron Otis, I can’t say enough about him. I think he’s in the top three drummers in the country. I just think this guy’s incredible. Every time I see him play I’m just….I’m mesmerized by his abilities. And Al Turner is so slick with that bass. He’s got some great chops. It’s just unbelievable, the melodies on this record.