Al McKay, Tight & Funky, A Party On Fire!

Soul Searchin’ by Masaharu Yoshioka

Al McKay All Stars Live At The Billboard, Tokyo

A Blast!

It is about one year and one month since Al McKay All Stars, led by the famous former master guitarist of Earth Wind & Fire came to Blue Note last March (2008) for the live shows. One of the trumpets has changed, but other than that, the band members are the same as last year. Last year, Hiraishi-san of Osaka Monaurail was asked to play as a pinch hitter the day before the show, and this year, he got the offer 3 days ago. He seems to have got the swing of it and played the trombone with confidence. The Billboard was a full house, packed with long-time EWF fans.

I guess because they’ve been playing with the same members since last year, I got the impression that their sound was even tighter. The set list from the golden years of EWF is what makes me real happy. In the slow-ballad, “Reasons”, the dialog between Ed Wynne on saxophone and the vocalist Tim and the really, really hot saxophone solo were really smoking. I thought that Ed’s veins might burst – such blazing blow!

After the slower tempo “Reasons”, the 30 minute non-stop from “In The Stone” to the final “September” is always, however many times I hear and see it, is just fantastic, the highlight, the best! The “Fantasy” that Tim sings is so powerful that it’s as if it has now surpassed Philip’s. In “Jupiter”, “Getaway”, the brass section shines and the way they shower the horns in “Magic Mind” is just great. Particularly in “Magic Mind”, the sharp attacks by the trumpet, sax and trombone really whip up the crowd.

At the end, Devere shouted, “Thank you, OSAKA!” Eh??? (LOL) When he came back for the encore, he immediately said, “I’m sorry! Not Osaka, Thank you TOKYO!” There was no “Boogie Wonderland” in the encore, but it was “Let’s Groove” with the whole crowd standing with both arms pointing the ceiling. When this was over, the sweat-soaked members all held hands, stood across the stage and bowed deeply. However, I hear that Hiraishi-san is a bit sad because the original Phenix Horns trumpeter Michael Harris won’t hold his hand. (smile) Hiraishi’s position on the stage is in front of Michael’s. Normally, Michael should be before him, and I also heard that Michael is a bit frustrated that Hiraishi doesn’t understand English. (smile)

For the encore, the back curtains are opened. There you see a spectacular night-view of the now infamous spot, Hinoki-cho Park. It is where the Tsuyoshi Kusanagi incident occurred. I’m sure Kusanagi wanted to GETAWAY from reality, too.

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