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26 August 2011

Ray & B.B.'s Superband Tour (1990)

Ray and BB at press conference in New York, on or around 1 October 1990 (photo from: Jet magazine, 3 December 1990).
In July 1990 a press release was published to announce that the "Superband tour" of that year would be headlined by B.B. King and Ray Charles. The official title of the series was "Parliament American Blue Concerts", but the format was also called for what it was: the Philip Morris tour - the fifth (or sixth) edition of an international series of blues and jazz concert tours, that were heavily sponsored by the cigarette manufacturer.
The tentative schedule published that day entailed "20-plus concerts in U.S., Taiwan, Philippines, Korea, Japan, Australia, Germany, Holland, France and Turkey". Charles was quoted for saying, "I'm looking forward to a wonderful tour with my man B.B. and all those fine cats in the Superband, Gene Harris, Ray Brown, Sweets Edison and the rest."
In early September a second press release was send out confirming the tour, specifying that the first concert of the tour would be in Taiwan, on 29 September.
This Taiwan concert probably didn't go through, or it was rescheduled, because the band rehearsals for the tour, at the Carol Studios in New York, must have taken place on or around October 1, 1990*.

Rehearsals in New York

A friendly spirit recently send me a unique 67 minute tape with raw, hardly edited, video footage of Ray's rehearsals with the Philip Morris Superband. The entourage was a bit stranger than can be seen on the photos: the studio was flocked with cigar smoking spectators (probably a bunch of Philip Morris executives, some VIPs invited by the sponsors, and some press). On the same day Philip Morris also organized a formal press conference with the two stars, and afterwards distributed a press kit.

The 67 minutes are a fascinating documentary on how Ray drilled musicians. With the help of Al Jackson (at the time the Ray Charles Orchestra's band leader - there's hardly a trace of Superband conductor Gene Harris in the whole video) Ray ran the band through the most problematic sequences of his songs. Almost all his directions are geared towards getting "time" and "rhythm" right.
The Genius obviously wasn't all that happy "with all those fine cats in the Superband". And looking at these cats, these feelings must have been fully reciprocal. Sweets Edison was heard muttering, "I need this gig like I need aids".
It may be hard to believe, but Ray had the biggest possible difficulties with getting veterans Ray Brown (bass) and Harold Jones (drums) in the right grooves. The most comical scene is where Ray begs, moans, shouts, wriggles and jumps to get the right "booms" and "bangs" from Harold Jones into What'd I Say.
I don't have a clue about the provenance of the tape. My best guess is that the recording was initiated by the sponsors.

Regrettably, this documentary doesn't have anything of B.B.'s visit to the rehearsal studio.

The line-up of the Superband was: James Morrison, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Joe Mosello, Glenn Drewes -  trumpets; Urbie Green, George Bohanon, Robin Eubanks - trombones; Paul Faulise - bass trombone; Jerry Dodgion, Jeff Clayton - alto saxophone; Ralph Moore, Plas Johnson - tenor saxophones; Gary Smulyan -  baritone sax; Gene Harris - piano and band leader; Kenny Burrell - guitar; Ray Brown - acoustic double bass; Harold Jones - drums; Ray Charles - vocal, keyboards; B.B. King - vocal, guitar.
B.B. witnessing Ray's rehearsals with the band.

Documented concerts
I've found various, sometimes contradictory, sources documenting the following Parliament American Blue concerts. In the list below I'm following the details of the band's 'official' tour schedule.
At the Grand Rex, in Paris.
  • 26 September 1990: plane New York - Tokyo.
  • 27 September 1990: plane Tokyo - Taipei.
  • 28 September 1990: Taipei; rehearsals and press conference.
  • 29 September 1990: concert Taipei.
  • 30 September 1990: concert, master class Taipei.
  • 1 October 1990: Taipei, day off.
  • 2 October 1990: plane Taipei - Manilla; press conference, concert, master class.
  • 3 October 1990: concert Manilla.
  • 4 October 1990: master class Manilla.
  • 5 October 1990: plane Manilla - Seoul.
  • 6 October 1990: concert Seoul.
  • 7 October 1990: concert, master class Seoul.
  • 8 October 1990: plane Seoul - Osaka.
  • 9 October 1990: concert  Koseinenkin Kaikan, Osaka.
  • ?9 October 1990: Kokusai Kaikan, Kobe?
  • 10 October 1990: Koseinenkin Kaikan, Osaka. 
  • 11 October 1990: press conference, concert Tokyo.
  • 12 October 1990: Yoyogi, Tokyo (video bootleg).
  • 13 October 1990: plane Tokyo - Perth.
  • 14 October 1990: press conference, concert at Concert Hall, Perth.
  • 15 October 1990: travel Perth - Gold Coast.
  • 16 October 1990: concert Gold Coast, travel to Brisbane.
  • 17 October 1990: day off in Brisbane.
  • 18 October 1990: travel Brisbane - Sydney.
  • 19 October 1990: concert Sydney (recording of band-only album World Tour 1990)  .
  • 20 October 1990: travel Sydney - Melbourne.
  • 21 October 1990: Concert Hall, Melbourne.
  • 22 October 1990: plane Melbourne - Istanbul.
  • 23 October 1990: day off in Istanbul.
  • 24 October 1990: concert, press conference Istanbul.
  • 25 October 1990: concert Istanbul.
  • 26 October 1990: travel Istanbul - Ankara.
  • 27 October 1990: concert Ankara.
  • 28 October 1990: plane Ankara - Dresden.
  • 29 October 1990: "hotel show" Dresden.
  • 30 October 1990: concert Dresden (audio bootleg - see comment and this post).  
  • 31 October 1990: travel Dresden -Duseldorf.
  • 1 - 2 November 1990: days off in Duseldorf.
  • 3 November 1990: travel Duseldorf - Maastricht; concert at Mecc, Maastricht.
  • 4 November 1990: travel Maastricht - Annecy; concert Annecy.
  • 5 November 1990: concert at Grand Rex, Paris. 
  • 6 November 1990: concert at Teatro Olimpico in Rome (audio bootleg).
  • 7 November 1990: concert in Bologna.
  • 8 November 1990: concert at Palatrussardi, Milan.
  • 9 November 1990: plane Italy - New York.
  • 10 November 1990: concert at Apollo Theatre, New York (B.B.'s part released on DVD and Grammy-winning CD).
    Flying to Japan, with Gene Harris.
    Tokyo concert
    From the troupe's tour schedule.
    On 12 October 1990 the last concert in the Japanese leg of Ray Charles' and B.B. King's Parliament American Blue/Superband tour, in Tokyo, was taped.
    I've watched a video of the concert. Interestingly, it starts with a very brief documentary sequence from the rehearsals in New York, this time with B.B.
    1. Love Comes To Town (B.B. King)
    2. Ain't Nobody's Business (B.B. King)
    3. The Thrill Is Gone (B.B. King)
    4. Let The Good Times Roll (Ray Charles)
    5. Busted (Ray Charles)
    6. Georgia On My Mind (Ray Charles)
    7. Ellie My Love (Ray Charles)
    8. I Can't Stop Loving You (Ray Charles)
    9. What'd I Say (Ray Charles)
    10. Bye Bye (Ray Charles and B.B. King)
    Love Comes To Town (B.B.):

    Ain't Nobody's Business (B.B.):

    The Thrill Is Gone (B.B.):

    Ellie, My Love (RC):

    I Can't Stop Loving You (RC):
     
    What'd I Say (RC):

    Bye Bye (RC & B.B.):


    According to the submission text at Youtube, this concert's finale was also taped in Japan:

    Japanese version of concert souvenir brochure.


    Italy concerts
    The gig at the Teatro Olimpico in Rome was bootlegged, and that bootleg was erroneously attributed with the date of 16 November 1990. I've found another copy of the same sound file, with some ambiguous notes about this concert being recorded at Palatrussardi in Milano, on 8 November 1990. The sound quality is mediocre.
    Setlist (with obvious corrections) of the Milan concert:
    1. Intro
    2. Let The Good Times Roll  
    3. Busted  
    4. Georgia On My Mind 
    5. I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town 
    6. Just For A Thrill 
    7. Teardrops From My Eyes  
    8. Ellie, My Love 
    9. Feel So Bad 
    10. I Can't Stop Loving You  
    11. What'd I Say 
    12. Blues Jam (It's Time For Me To Close The Show / I Get The Blues) (with B.B. King) 
    13. Outro
    The cover art of an obviously complete bootleg from the concert in Rome, changes the story and the setlist once more:

    My interpretation - for the time being - is that the setlist quoted above is indeed from the concert in Milan, and that the Rome concert's setlist was as quoted in this cover art. I'll type it out (with obvious corrections and additions), to make it searchable:
    1. Air Mail Special (Superband)
    2. Centerpiece (Superband)
    3. Battle Royal (Superband)
    4. Intro
    5. Let The Good Times Roll
    6. Busted
    7. Georgia On My Mind
    8. Mississippi Mud
    9. Just For A Thrill
    10. Teardrops From My Eyes
    11. Ellie, My Love
    12. Feel So Bad
    13. You've Got My Number
    14. I'm Gonna Move [To The Outskirts Of Town? BS]
    15. I Can't Stop Loving You
    16. What'd I Say
    17. The Blues Ain't Nothing (with B.B. King)
    18. Flip Flop And Fly (with B.B. King)
    19. Outro
    In this post I've described yet another - televized - concert from the tour, taped somewhere in Italy (Bologna?).

    Melbourne concert
    Australian ABC apparantly has recorded and broadcast the concert in Melbourne (see comments). Who knows more? A (this?) recording is possibly available on Sugarmegs (see comments).

    New York concert
    A review in The New York Times of the Superband concert at the Apollo in New York on November 10 describes the format of the show:
    "The high point of [the] show [...], featuring B. B. King and Ray Charles, came at a predictable point: Mr. Charles crept through a set of his standards, whispering and moaning and caressing the words, imbuing them with a sense of loss and longing that had the hall stone quiet.
    [...] Mr. Charles used a whole raft of devices to draw the audience into a world of his own making. Backed by the Philip Morris Superband, Mr. Charles used stop time breaks, setting his voice against silence, or sang a call-and-response duet with the guitarist Kenny Burell. He played an achingly beautiful and slow duet with the bassist Ray Brown, and sang a host of familiar songs, from Georgia on My Mind to What'd I Say. When Mr. King came out to join him for a short, promising final blues, he wrung meaning out of tunes that should have lost their resonance years ago."
    B.B.'s part of the Apollo concert was released as Live At The Apollo, King's first big band album ever.
    Ray at the Apollo.
    Ad for the Apollo concert.
    A full history of the tour, including some funny reminiscences on Ray as a 'band leader', and on the reasons why he didn't participate in the Apollo recordings, can be found in Elegant Soul: The Life And Music Of Gene Harris by Janie Harris and Bob Evancho, p. 160 - 165 (see, except for the plot of the latter story, also here).

    In December 1990, still cashing in on the local hit success of Ellie, My Love, Ray would already return to Tokyo (see this). This time with his own orchestra, looking a lot happier.

    * This information and other details kindly provided by Steve Sigmund and Jeff Kaye.

    20 comments :

    1. Il existe un bootleg de qualite A du concert du Philip Morris Gene Harris superband de Dresde enregistre le 30/10/1990 .JPVerger

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    2. That's great, JP!
      Can you name the songs?

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    3. le concert de Dresde est identique a celui du 8/11.1990(Milan?) ou celui du 16/11/1990 (Rome) .Apres le set de BB King,on trouve 3 morceaux orchestral (Airmail Special,Centerpiece,Battle Royal) puis Ray Charles arrive et fait le meme set qu'a Rome et dans le meme ordre.Le final avec BB King est aussi identique.
      Je pense que tous les concerts ont ete semblables sans veritable improvisation... JPVerger

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    4. Dear JP,

      1. Do you have the name of the director of the TV program?
      2. Do you know the name of the TV station?
      4. Do you know when the program was broadcast for the first time?

      ReplyDelete
    5. "Ain't Nodoby's Business (What I Do)" instead of " 'Taint Nobody's Bizness If I Do".

      ReplyDelete
    6. The correct title is:

      "Ain't Nobody's Business"

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    7. Dear Mr. Stumpel,

      It was really nice to play with the legendary Ray Charles, thanks for remembering it and for creating such an amazing blog. God bless you.

      Kind regards,

      James Morrison

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    8. Dear Mr. Morrison,

      Very nice to hear that you had a Good Time with Brother Ray.
      And thank you very much for your kind compliment!

      Best, BOB

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    9. Dear Mr Stumpel
      I went to the Perth concert, which fell on my birthday. Still the most memorable concert I have ever been to. Do you know if a full recording of any of the concerts and particularly the Perth one (which I can clearly remember James Morrison playing at too) is available?
      Regards
      Simon Trevisan

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      Replies
      1. Hi Simon

        I have a tape recording of the Sydney show - am going to transfer it to mp3 and send to Bob, if you'd like a copy?
        Best

        Tony

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      2. Hi Tony,
        I am replying on behalf of Simon. He would love it if you could provide a copy of the concert. If you could please email me at kthompson@transrg.com.au to organise details.
        Regards,
        Kate

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    10. Hi Simon,

      Unfortunately, I don't know of any Australian taping...

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    11. Hi
      I was at the Sydney Concert and recorded it on C90 cassette. The quality's not amazing as you'd expect, but there's 45 mins of Ray's set, then the section with just the band, and sadly only a portion of BB's set before the tape ended. I can make it available if anyone's interested.
      Best regards
      Tony

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    12. Hi Tony,

      I'd love to listen to that.
      Can you upload your copy to WeTransfer.com (a hassle-free and secure filesharing service)?

      Thanks,
      BOB

      ReplyDelete
    13. I was at the Melbourne concert
      FANTASTIC
      Best concert ever for me
      There was a recording played by Australian ABC some time after which I listened to and recorded on cassette tape....... Which is somewhere????
      Would love a copy if one

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    14. Melbourne show is available at sugarmegs.org filed under bb king

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    15. Melbourne fm show is available at sugarmegs.org filed under by king , Rays and bb's set

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      Replies
      1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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      2. I can't find it. Can you please share the exact link?

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