Thankfully the schedule's light today AND coffee is readily available ;-) We start off with a short trip to the Embassy - looks pretty much like all the others... don't know if I've mentioned that there's actually a rule that all new Embassies are on the same floor plan with the same architectural design! We're greeted by Ambassador Robert Jackson who sits down with us to have a nice little chat and welcome us to Yaounde. We'll be meeting his wife later, as we prepare to play at his residence this evening.
Originally Posted by Keri Chryst on February 28, 2012 at 11:05 AM
A cup of coffee and a pleasant pow-wow with Public Affairs Officer Matt McKeever and we're ready to get back into the swing of things and go meet the local musicians we'll be playing with this evening.
Morning Rehearsal with Zik'Us
We pull into the Ambassador's residence - the nicest one we've seen so far! Full of gorgeous art from around the United States and the world. We're greeted by Babs - MRS. Ambassador, who is such a joy and welcoming hostess! Later she give us a full tour of the Art collection that has been made available to them through the Art in Embassies program - promoting American artists through the Embassies throughout the world. But first, it's time to get down to business with the cats for the rehearsal and sound check.
Morning rehearsal with the heavy-weights of Zik'Us
We're introduced to the members of Zik’Us, a local jazz group with Roddy Ekoa on drums, Jean-Paul Lietche - bass, Alain - sax, and Thierry Sandio on the keyboard... as well as two members of the Embassy staff who are themselves experienced musicians - Jean-Pierre on vocals and harmonica, and Glen on guitar.
Pros in action
They're prepared! The Embassy gave them links to some of our music in advance - but we spring a few unexpected things on them 'cause we get the sense they'll be able to rise to the occasion... and they DO. No problems here. These are real jazz pros who have no problem switching keys and picking up grooves. A half hour rehearsal, and we're in good enough shape to feel confident about tonight's performance.
The gorgeous American Art collection on loan for display in the living room at the Ambassador's Residence
Then we retire into the "living" room for some refreshment and chit-chat where drummer Roddy Ekoa admits "I'm SURE I've seen Jeff before in Paris". Small world! Roddy spent 4 or 5 years in Paris a little while back and spent his share of time in the good old Caveau des Oubliettes where Jeff is known to be seen on a weekly basis. We take turns name dropping, and there's a lot of crossover.
Evening Concert and Festivities
Dressed to the 9's
We're more than on schedule, so we actually have a plenty of time to go back to the hotel and chill a bit before showing up for the actual gig. We're told the dress code has been advertised as "jazzy" ;-) so we want to be sure to hit the mark on that ;-) We show back up, and the other cats are all decked out in their suits looking sharp - Jeff too! It's the first time I've seen him in this snazzy gear, and it definitely makes the grade!
Ambassador Jackson welcomes guests for this evening's concert at his official Residence
Babs takes excellent care of us, showing us to a beautifully appointed little anteroom where we can sit and relax. She sends over a few of the staff with plates laden with a selection of all the finger food the rest of the guests are munching on. Jeff thanks her, saying that the musicians are usually the last to be served when there's nothing left, so this is a much welcome change!
Let's get this party started
The Ambassador sets us up with some lovely opening remarks, and then the party starts with Jean-Pierre and Glen taking the lead with Zik’Us on a few blues numbers to get the audience warmed up ;-) Zik’Us then struts their stuff with an homage to jazz fusion legend - bassist Jaco Pastorius - a high energy number which shows off their finely honed musicianship.
Musicians of Zik'Us looking and sounding slick!
@ 1m21s - Live shots of Ambassador Jackson, Babs, and Cameroon's Minister of Culture enthusiastically singing along :-)
Then Jeff and I finally hit the stage - and we take the audience through our usual number - getting them to sing along right away on "Duke's Place".
This being a largely Francophone crowd, we stick mostly to The French Connection repertoire which is clearly appreciated by the connaisseurs. But we're here for a cultural EXCHANGE, so we don't waste too much time before inviting Xik’Us back up to join us on "A Train" and "Work Song", and then we do a couple more blues tunes with Jean-Pierre and Glen - "Kansas City" and "Walk On".
After a quick homage to our consummate hostess Babs who hails from "Georgia" we round out the night with a roarin' sing along in honor of President Obama's recent rendition of "Sweet Home Chicago" :-)
"It gets 'em every time"
I'm very pleased to report that my voice has held up reasonably well, despite the hacking coughing I'd been doing all week prior. I steered clear of some of the more vocally taxing tunes such as "New York, New York" (much to Jeff's dismay - "But it gets 'em every time, honey!"). But I've got a week's work of concerts and workshops ahead of me, so I'm glad to say that we're off to a good start in that realm.
A few words from Cameroon's Minister of Culture, Mme Ama Tutu Muna. High praise indeed!
The crowd lingers around to congratulate us, and talk about future potential for projects and collaboration. I'm particularly flattered by the Minister of Culture Mme Ama Tutu Muna who goes out of her way to share her enthusiasm, and invites us to stop by for a visit to her ministry if possible. We have a pretty full schedule tomorrow before we leave to hit the road for the rest of the tour, so I'm crossing my fingers we can squeeze it in...
A few more photos with audience and musicians alike, and it's time to clear out. We look forward to seeing the Ambassador and his wife again soon - they'll be going out of their way to meet us down in Douala in a couple of days for another VIP concert, so we only need say "au revoir" rather than "adieu", which is good, 'cause these are what we call "good people" :-)