Fulfilling his dreams is part of the life of Gerald Albright, saxman extraordinaire.
“On my last record, ‘30,’ it has to do with the No. 30, because I am blessed to do what I do now for 30 years,” he said. “I’ve been able to take some of my fans and my personal favorites, combine them and put them on steroids. It’s about putting together new arrangements and different textures both with Summer Horns and my solo gigs.”
For Albright, who will perform Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14-15, at Thornton Winery as part of the 2019 Champagne Summer Jazz Concert Series, it’s about growing as a musician.
“You know, it’s amazing how much growth you gain over the years and how you listen to music,” he said. “You listen to music, for example, that was good for the 80s, and now it’s a celebration of growth and highlights the fact that I am blessed.”
He will perform as part of Summer Horns, the all-star collection featuring Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Kenny Lattimore and Aubrey Logan.
“You know, it’s interesting that this is the second year in a row touring with Summer Horns,” he said. “We’ve always been off for the first two weeks of August because Rick (Braun) has a cruise. It becomes more of wearing a new hat. There has been some talk about maybe doing my own cruise.”
For his last record, he went into a retrospective mood, going back and reworking music from his career.
“There were some obvious choices like ‘Bermuda Nights’ and my flagship tunes that I wrote in 1988 and 1989, but when it came to filling the rest of the record, I did kind of a micro survey with my fans of what songs they’d want to hear and it was all over the place,” he said. “So, I took the bull by the horn and picked 10 tunes for project that felt fun to rearrange.”
In a way, it is a way to handle some of the issues with the set list, because as every artist will say, they cannot play everyone’s favorite song.
“Inevitably, someone comes to the CD tables and tells me I didn’t play the song they wanted, and all I can say is that I did my best to put songs into the set,” he said.
With Summer Horns, that issue can be even more problematic, despite the entertainment and intensity of the show.
“That’s the only downside that maybe you get 10 minutes of just you, and the rest is the Summer Horns project,” he said. “But in terms of when we select songs, at least for me, it’s based on looking out at my audience to determine what songs I am going to do. The other thing is the mood because sometimes I am not in the mood to do a song, and other times I am. I will combine energies and figure out what songs to do. Maybe we were going to do this song, but now it feels like we should do ‘Champagne Life.’”
With Summer Horns, it is a labor of love and friendship, without a doubt.
“What you see onstage is genuine,” he said. “We love playing with one another. I love Koz, and when he puts a project together, one of the first prerequisites is the spirit and the energy has to be a certain way. It has to be a light-filled environment, the artists have to have a mutual respect and it has to feel like family. I think the audience feels that stuff, and when they see it, it transcends to the audience.”
It is the chance for people to not just see Albright’s talent, but that of other superstars of jazz.
“It works great because it’s the idea that we come together and just partner on and people live it and we are playing the songs that everyone wants to know,” he said. “We have unique arrangements and then the band is killing. It’s a win-win.”
Of course, there are still the solo careers.
“I do about 120-125 shows a year on my own, and this go around with Summer Horns we are doing 25 cities, which has to include Thornton Winery every time,” he said. “Sometimes we have a promoter jump on board who wants us to do extra gigs. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Albright said he also understands the power and importance of his music.
“One of the reasons I am still in the game is because it’s more than just the music,” he said. “We have a responsibility to present the music the best we can to the people listening to us as they are digesting this music. A few years back, I was playing in Baltimore. After the show, I was sweating and wiping myself off with a towel when a security guard said there’s a woman emphatic about seeing me, and he brought her back. She was teary eyed and she explained that she had buried her mother the previous day in another city and it was a mandate for her to drive 600 or 700 miles to hear me play ‘Georgia on my Mind.’”
It was her favorite song, he said and it got to Albright.
“She’s crying, and I’m balling,” he said. “She asked if she could have a hug and she got one. People around us are hearing this and I’m hugging her for a minute and a half. This music affects people. I walked away from that realizing this was more than just showing up for work. This affects people’s lives.”
It’s pretty good for Albright as well, he said.
“The music keeps me young, and my daughter is doing her thing and that keeps it fresh,” he said of his daughter Selina, who has her own professional career and often performs with him. “We love the energy as respective musicians. This month I’m going to be 62. I don’t really feel it. My body is still working and it’s just a number. It’s a blessing to still have that passion.”
Thornton Winery is located at 32575 Rancho California Road in Temecula. The show will start at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, and 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15. General admission tickets are $99 and $94 and gourmet supper tickets $184 and $179. For more information, call (951) 699-3021 or visit www.thorntonwine.com.
Jim Dail is an English professor and longtime freelance writer in Temecula, covering performances at local wineries, casinos, Old Town Temecula and other venues. His specialty is pop, rock, country and jazz performers, as well as stage performances. His writing can be found at www.temeculaentertainment.com.