I guess you wonder where I’ve been
I searched to find the love within
I came back to let you know
Got a thing for you
And I can’t let go…
– Bobby Caldwell
It seems that my old dilemma of last year’s December 4th had come to revisit me early – tonight! And that dilemma was, which show to attend on a Saturday night? My buddy Dennis informed me that Bob Baldwin was performing upstate in White Plains. The illustrious Matt Marshak was with Marcus Anderson tearing it up in the Bronx. And Bobby Caldwell was at B.B. King’s. Decisions, decisions, and since I cannot replicate myself, I can’t be in three places at once.
Of course, Bobby Caldwell won.
Now, I’ve seen him once before, at the Blue Note, and that was my first time seeing Bobby. Now, this time – in a bigger venue, and with somewhat more decent weather…okay, that’s debatable – I took a lot more notice of the showmanship. And really, Bobby shines. You take a look at him and think that hey, this guy doesn’t look like much, but there’s that little glimmer of brilliant composer in his eye somewhere. Then he grabs the mic and it’s obvious – he loves his music now just as much as he did when he recorded it the first time.You see it in crystal clarity; the man loves the music, and he’s sharing both with the audience.
Now, behind every soloist, as you well know and expect, there has to be a fantastic band, and Bobby picked out some fantastic stagemates. Brian Dunne on drums, whom routinely backs up Chuck Loeb and his daughter Lizzy. Gil Parris, a guitar wizard whom I hadn’t seen since the ye olde Cutting Room – and what a lovely surprise to have heard his riffs tonight. And, of course, Andrew Neu on the saxes, two altos and one tenor.
All considering, Bobby had written a lot of great songs for others. Janet is a classic, and of course, my very favorite, is What You Won’t Do For Love, which I have heard many covers of. Still – you know, covers. There’s a completely different effect when you hear it by the original mastermind, and hearing Bobby sing it is an instant smile. Initially released in 1978, it was an instant hit, and its melody is immediately recognizable, and when I heard it today, I just closed my eyes and reveled in the feel of it a little. It makes one feel like the clock is turned back, and the first thought upon hearing the chorus is, “You just don’t hear this sort of music much anymore.”
But I must add this: Andrew Neu stole the show tonight.
I’ll say what everyone at Berks can attest to: Andrew is a fantastic and very well-skilled sax player. I first saw him in the jam session at last year’s Berks, and saw that he has a definite success combination: steady tone, good cadence, overall well-balanced sound. But there’s a jam session and there’s the Bobby Caldwell solo. Dave Koz, Richard Elliott, and Boney James all played with Bobby, and all have gone on to make stellar solo careers. Now, tonight, I heard a little something different with Andrew when he took his solo on one of the altos. In fact, it was something that very distinctly reminded me of Dave Koz; the horn suddenly became very expressive. Where only a few minutes ago Andrew was backing Bobby Caldwell with well-timed licks, in the solo was something else; a little crescendo push that makes you look up from the drink du jour and listen a little closer.
When Bobby came out on stage, he sat down, gave Andrew a look and said, “I asked you to tell a story!” Andrew shrugged. Bobby: “Not your life story!”
To which I can only say… Bobby, if you had Boney James in your lineup, I would think you got used to saxophone storytelling by now.
The finishing touch was Where Is Love and it only then struck me just how full the venue was. For those of you who hadn’t come to NYC yet, B.B. King’s is pretty big as far as clubs are concerned. A great, dark-wood expanse with a dance floor and excellent acoustics, and once in a good while, it gets packed to the gills. And tonight was such a night; the applause was thunderous.
In all, a great night, and if only I could replicate myself, you guys would have some more writeups.:)