Sunday, February 28, 1999


Fellow funkarians,

How is the winter of our discotheque?, as Shakespear never said. I feel that Spring is about to be sprung on us at any moment, and may have already for you, depending on which climate you live in. For those of you living at the foot of Kilimanjaro, you can ignore all of this completely, and for the rest of you, it's what someone who has little to say fills up an entire paragraph with in the absence of matters of real import and excitement.

Actually I did have some excitement last week, but I've forgotten what it was now that excited me. Oh, YES!! It was our little trip to Washington DC to take part in our friend Tom Joyner's morning radio show. This is one of those incredible American phenomena that could never happen anywhere else on earth, except maybe Mombasa or Maputu for a free food giveaway.

Imagine, if you will, arriving at a theatre at four forty five (Yes, 4.45) in the cold dark morning, to find people lined up around the block for this once-weekly live on-location radio show, which seems to be a loose mix of a gospel meeting, an interactive talk (and scream) show, and then add a guest Soul artist - last week us, this week James Brown, and so on - and you start to get a picture of what it's like to be a part of this extravaganza.

As the curtain went up (at 6am) and the entire cast, and Tom, and us went forward to the front of the stage, while twelve hundred people went out of their tiny minds, I said to Fred, "can you imagine this in Leeds?" He lost it completely, needless to say. AND we stayed at the Mayflower Hotel, where just two weeks previously the one and only Monica Lewinsky (I guess everyone has heard of her??) was esconced for her little chat with the US version of the Spanish Inquisition. Although no finger nails were pulled, nor thumbs screwed in the ceasless quest for someone's idea of the truth, it nevertheless needed Monica to appear in front of all those salivating old Southern Republican (read American version of an arch-Tory) congressmen, and it was the Mayflower that it happened in. No, I didn't get the room she stayed in - mine was FAR nicer.

Elsewhere, things were much as normal, and we've now confirmed our two week visit to England in May, following on the heels of our Japan trip. We should either have blistering jet-lag, or invincible stamina by the time we get there, as we will have done 12 shows in Japan, and then, having returned to New York to pick up some clean underwear and some fresh guitar and sax polish, we'll set off across the Atlantic for our UK pals and eighteen sets in fourteen days. Suckers for punishment, you might well say, and you would be one hundred percent right. Still, it's the only way to get to so many people in a short space of time, unless you all can persuade the Royal Albert hall, and the NEC to book us for 2 nights each.

We were in the studio last week, putting the finishing touches to the Japanese, and so the British version, of "Face To Face", with a live version of "Let's Go Round Again" which Phil, our intrepid engineer mixed and edited on to the existing American version, which I believe debuts on July 1st on the EMI/Capitol label. Obviously, since "Let's Go Round" was such a hit in the UK and Japan (and was again last year in Britain, by Louise) it makes much more sense to have it on those issues rather than in the States, where hardly anyone knows the tune - except, that is, those of you who go out of your way to explore some of our different foreign issues.

On Friday we will set off down South for a trio of dates, including the Bonne Fete 300 - Baton Rouge's celebration of its tricentennial - and our home-from-home in New Orleans, The House Of Blues. We open with a show at Sam's Town, outside Memphis, on Friday, with our old pals WAR. They looked great when I saw them at Phoenix last October, so we're really looking forward to that, as we've had some terrific shows together over the years. Working in tandem with people like them and our other good mates, Tower Of Power, is such a gas, as it takes all the pressure off any one of us to "do it all", but gives fans such a broad range of soul and R&B performance in one sitting. The only problem we've had, though, when all three of us played together was best illustrated at Phoenix last year. The giant marquee that graces the car park of the Celebrity Theatre had run out of 'W's, and so as we drove by at nine in the morning, after an all - night drive from Santa Fe, New Mexico, we were greeted with the sight of..



You can't make this stuff up!

More news after the next cool, and stay funky.


Tuesday, February 2, 1999


Subject: London Diary

Date: Fri, 2 Feb 1999

From: Freddy V

Upon returning home this past week, and catching up with all my e-mail correspondence (including several offers to earn millions of dollars while never leaving my house, and invitations to check out some "Hot Chix"), I have noticed a number of requests (O.K., I think there were 2, but that's a number isn't it?) for me to write a bit about the musical portion of my recent holiday in the UK.

There's not much I can say about Hamish's gig that hasn't been said by Mark or Chris. In the 3 years I've been with AWB, I've heard Alan and Onnie tell me many times what a great soul singer Hamish was. I've also been reading Mark and Chris' reviews of Hamish's 606 gigs for the past year, so I had to see for myself if all of it was true. I was not disappointed. It was a great night of soul music. The man sounds better than I remember, and hearing a great band like Hamish's in an intimate club is always real pleasure. I almost didn't mind the feedback, the uncomfortable chairs and that, for some reason, they didn't serve Coke or Pepsi (what kind of bar doesn't serve cola?).

My second musical treat of my holiday was the chance to play with Jim Mullen, one of the U.K.'s best jazz guitarists. Jim was an original member of "Kokomo," another Scottish soul/R&B band that got its start in the 70's. Jim & I had met backstage a couple of years ago at my first AWB gig in London where we immediately began arguing about music. Jim is very passionate man (he is Scottish, after all), and is not afraid to express his opinions about music or anything else. I've been a fan of his funk/R&B playing with saxophonist Dick Morrissey for years, so I was looking forward to the chance to play with him in a little impromptu jam, along with London pianist Mike Gorman.

Since there was no rehearsing, and none of us had ever played together before, we found some common ground in soul/jazz standards like "Put It Where You Want It" and "Cantaloupe Island" and R&B chestnuts like "If You Don't Know Me By Now" and "Boogie On Reggae Woman." Folks don't get to hear Jim play much other than straight-ahead jazz lately, so there were quite a few people to see the jjam. Jim is a very fiery player who means every note, and it was extremely inspiring to play with him. The evening's festivities were taken up a step when Jim invited his old Kokomo bandmate, keyboardist/vocalist, Tony O'Malley to sing a couple of tunes. I felt so comfortable it was as if I had been playing with these guys for years.

After the set, Jim and I had a chance to hang out and talk about music. Jim and Kokomo toured with AWB in the 70's, and we shared some road stories, as well as Jim's recollections of working with Robbie Macintosh, the late AWB drummer, with whom Jim had played in Brian Auger's band.

I had a great time playing with Jim, and the two of us talked about the possibility of getting together again and doing a real gig when AWB tours the U. K this spring. We'd get a chance to play some of the old Mullen/Morrissey arrangements, and that would certainly be a thrill for me.

Thanks to all the fans and friends who made that evening so enjoyable. I hope to see you all again the next time AWB comes over to the U.K.