This summer the Yellowjackets had the great pleasure to do some concertizing with Bobby McFerrin as an honorary Yellowjacket. Bobby’s tremendous artistry and big heart were incredibly inspiring to us all. We played concerts in New York, Los Angeles, and two dates in Oregon. Hopefully there will be more opportunities for this collaboration in the future.
What was most striking about Bobby’s presence on the Jacket’s bandstand was his total commitment to being in the moment, seemingly without any concern for sticking to any set plan or protocol. Things would change at the drop of a hat, always with a sense of purpose and momentum. In a sense, this is what jazz music is all about. Playing note one, then note two, and then considering the direction implied by the first two notes in deciding what note comes third.
For those of you who have seen McFerrin live you know how intimate his connection with the audience is. I’ve never seen any other artist carry on this level of dialogue with an audience in such an artistic and sincere way. It is so full of good will, creative energy, and humanity.
In New York at the Highline Ballroom Bobby asked if anyone in the audience wanted to come up and sing Lullaby of Birdland. The McFerrin fans were out in force that night! Frantically waving hands were everywhere. A young man came up and proceeded to sing something that somewhat resembled the tune, but somehow changed key and meter every few bars. Bobby then proceeded to duet with this cat. Only an artist of his caliber could pull such a thing off. It was incredible! All done with a good-natured and generous approach. He weaved around this guys less-than-stellar rendition of “Lullaby” and turned the whole thing into a work of art.
What I’ve taken away from this experience is a new awareness of how important it is to be in the moment, be generous of spirit, and the importance of listening to the other person without passing judgment on them, in the name of making every encounter. and every moment the best it can be.