By Ann-Marie Baldini
On Saturday, May 12, BAM attended the third annual Divine Wine Extravaganza, an event created by the Harbor Point Charitable Foundation to support youth in music, and benefiting the Narada Michael Walden Foundation and the Marin School of the Arts. Held in the beautiful showrooms of Ferrari-Maserati of San Francisco in Mill Valley, the Divine Wine Extravaganza included a wine tasting, with 15 Bay Area vintners pouring their proudest offerings; an elaborate feast catered by Nourish at Harbor Point; a live auction showcasing one-of-a-kind items, including photographs, graphic artwork, and paintings by Marin School of the Arts students, a pair of congas signed by Carlos Santana, and a shadowbox featuring a cymbal and a pair of drumsticks signed by Narada Michael Walden. Guests enjoyed stellar performances by students of the Jazz and Rock Band departments at the Marin School of the Arts, featuring as special guest the incomparable Narada Michael Walden himself.
View our BAM TV coverage of the Divine Wine Extravaganza here!
Prior to the Divine Wine Extravaganza, BAM had the privilege of sitting down with Narada Michael Walden in Tarpan Studios, his Marin County recording studio. There the multi Emmy- and Grammy-winning record producer/drummer/singer spoke about the Narada Michael Walden Foundation; playing at the White House for President Obama’s Red, White and Blues concert; his world tour with Jeff Beck that lasted 2 1/2 years; his new band and their recently released album; and winning a Bammie Award.
BAM: Narada, thank you so much for inviting us into your studio! The Narada Michael Walden Foundation is one of the beneficiaries of the Divine Wine Extravaganza. Please tell us about it, and whom it benefits.
Narada: I created the the Narada Michael Walden Foundation to help children in music in schools, so I was really excited when the people from the Divine Wine Extravaganza contacted me about being part of their event and asked me to play for them, and with the kids from the Marin School of the Arts. And I said, "Absolutely!" I am very inspired to keep music alive, to jam with the kids, and to let the kids really feel it, because all they need is a boost. Well, we all need a boost, really, but they are the ones who can take it further than all of us. A couple of years ago, the Narada Michael Walden Foundation put on an event called The Sunshine Concert at Louise M. Davies Hall, and it’s my wish to keep putting on concerts like that here in the Bay Area, on a yearly basis. So I am asking, if there are any sponsors out there who love the idea of helping Narada Michael Walden put on these concerts, please reach out to my foundation, because we really want to do good for children in music.
BAM: You had the privilege of performing in a concert at The White House. What are some of your most memorable moments from that event?
Narada: I was asked by Booker T. [Jones], the Music Director for President Obama’s Red, White, and Blues concert, to play drums with him. It was wonderful! Jeff Beck came to play, and I played with Mick Jagger, whose energy is really high! When I realized in rehearsal that Mick wanted me to play all out so he could jump around and really go crazy...[laughter]. You have to watch it [on PBS], Mick Jagger and I doing Otis Redding’s “Can’t Turn You Loose." It's so intense, I mean it’s almost startlingly intense! And then this youngster came out, who I didn’t really know until rehearsals, Gary Clark, Jr. He’s a blues phenomenon! We played a jam called "Catfish Blues," and what I realized in rehearsals is that I could really swing hard like Mitch Mitchell [drummer for the late Jimi Hendrix] behind him. And then Gary Clark, Jr., played behind the beat, almost draggin’, and you got this feelin’ like the mud... like you got muddy boots, that’s the feelin’! I looked at the President, and I saw his face, and the look on his face was like, "Aaaawwww yeah!" It’s the greatest experience I’ve ever had!
BAM: You recently returned from a world tour with Jeff Beck. As a spiritual person, how do you connect with your audience from behind the kit?
Narada: Being on the stage is the highest experience for me. Being in front of the audience does take me, and it takes them [the audience]. We all go to a place higher than ourselves, like a big ball of energy, and you can really feel it when the thing catches fire! Jeff Beck and I toured the world for about 2 1/2 years, and we could just see the audience catch on fire with a feeling of passion, a real fever. And in the spotlights, I can see Jimi Hendrix, or Mitch Mitchell, or Buddy Miles, or my grandmother Nellie, or other people whom I love, and they’ll come to me during the show and give me the strength and encouragement to just let go and soar! So, this is what the live experience brings to me.
BAM: What have you been up to since you’ve been back in the Bay Area?
Narada: After touring with Jeff, I went and put my own band together quite quickly. We made a new album called Thunder, and we went to Japan and played The Blue Note there. I’m so happy with my new band! It’s Frank Martin on keyboards, Angeline Saris on bass -- who’s a bad young chick comin’ up! On guitar, I have this other bad brother named Matthew Charles Huelitt, who’s funky and can lose himself on his leads. And then Nikita Germaine, who is doing vocals with me.
BAM: Most of the music producers who work with the caliber of artist with whom you have worked are based in Los Angeles or New York. What keeps you here in the Bay Area?
Narada: I moved to the Bay Area from New York in 1978, and I loved it here. It was very welcoming to me. The Automatt studios, Hyde Street Studios, the Record Plant in Sausalito, they were always very kind to me. The people here are beautiful, and the surroundings are very beautiful. I felt if I could bring the intensity of New York here, I could have the best of both worlds. Which is what we have, those of us who live and work here: the best of both worlds. The Bay Area is known for loving and blowing up quality, fantastic music. And there was Bill Graham, Winterland, The Fillmore...we are known for having such history here! So it’s a real place to come and feel the beauty, breathe the air, and do wonderful work. And can I say something about BAM Magazine? I love BAM Magazine, because back in the day, I was on the cover of BAM Magazine. And I won a Bammie, too! The voting community at that time nominated me for a Bammie because I was here in the Bay Area, working on a project, and they felt I was doing wonderful work. They wanted to honor me for that, and I will never forget that. So thank you, BAM Magazine!
The pleasure is all ours, Narada Michael Walden! The Narada Michael Walden Band will be performing its debut album, Thunder -- in its entirety -- on Friday night, June 22, at George’s in San Rafael. You can purchase tickets directly at George's. For more information on the Narada Michael Walden Foundation, go to www.naradamichaelwaldenfoundation.com, and to learn more about the Marin School of the Arts, visit www.marinschoolofthearts.org.