WWD reports: Sting Sings for the Jazz House Kids...

March 01, 2024

Ralph Pucci once again transformed his sprawling Manhattan gallery for luxury home furnishings, lighting and art into a jazz club for an evening, this time with a full bar, burgers, a jazz quartet and a crowd of 250. But the main event was a performance by the legendary Sting.

The event Wednesday evening raised more than $800,000 for the nonprofit Jazz House Kids music school based in Montclair, N.J., with an annex at Trinity Church Wall Street.

“I’m feeling the love,” said Pucci, impresario for the night and a devout jazz lover, thanking the crowd just before introducing Sting.

Pucci’s fundraiser for Jazz House Kids has been held eight years in a row, raising a total of $2 million, with past performances by Gregory Porter, Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, Laurie Anderson, John Pizzarelli, Esperanza Spalding and Norah Jones. Each time virtuoso bassist and composer Christian McBride converses with the artist in between songs, adding to the intimacy of the evening and getting them to open up about their music and lives. McBride’s wife, Melissa Walker, is founder and president of Jazz House Kids.

On the makeshift stage, Sting looked cool in a black turtleneck and was relaxed as he played his colorfully painted six-string lead guitar. “It looks like a fruit box,” he said. Years ago, Sting recalled, when his wife Trudie Styler was making a documentary about Naples, he met a priest there. “He asked me for a favor: Come play a concert in the prison in his parish.” Sting accepted, received the guitar as a gift and learned it had been created from wood salvaged from a refugee boat. He reconditioned the guitar to performance caliber, and it holds deep significance for him. “It’s a metaphor for people trying to rebuild their lives, people building something out of nothing.”

McBride had Sting riffing on a range of subjects, including his childhood when his mother had him taking music lessons. “I started playing guitar when I was seven or eight.”

On his wife of more than three decades, he said, “She’s my anchor, my inspiration, my guide. Life without Trudie is not to be thought of.”

Sting spoke out about musicians not being compensated fairly by music streaming services, though he acknowledged making a lot of money from it from his many songs. “Music is being devalued by the whole thing. I’m glad vinyl is coming back.”

With each of his hit songs he performed, accompanied on piano by his musical director Rob Mathes and McBride on bass, Sting, the former frontman of the legendary band The Police, gave brief accounts of the situations and creative impulses for their origins. He opened his set with “the song that completely changed my life, ‘Roxanne,'” written in 1978, and followed with “Moon Over Bourbon Street,” written in 1980 and spurred by his state of mind when he stayed in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and read “Interview With a Vampire” which is set in that city. “I’m obsessed with that book,” Sting said. Between reading about the supernatural, then strolling Bourbon Street on a full moon night, the mood got eerie. “I started feeling I was being followed,” Sting recalled.

For his 1983 hit “Every Breath You Take,” Sting said the inspiration came when he was in Jamaica in 1982, seeking refuge from the press and staying in the home of the late novelist Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. Sting suggested an ambiguity to the meaning of the lyrics, which could be interpreted as romantic, or creepy as a stalker, yet in the spirit of 007’s complexity. “Bond saves the day. He also kills people,” observed Sting.

The warm-up act was the Jazz House Soulful Voices Choir, made up of the talented students. They performed moving renditions of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” released in 1993 and 1981, respectively. McBride and Sting invited the choir and instrumental students back on stage to perform together the finale, Sting’s “Fragile,” released in 1987.

“I’d like to offer my appreciation for the important work you are doing, a gift to our community and also the entire world, the gift of music,” Sting said of Jazz House Kids. “Music education is usually the first thing that is cut when there are cuts.” Extending advice to the music students present, Sting said, “I practice everyday. I go to the well everyday, to the river everyday. You don’t catch a fish everyday,” Sting said, speaking metaphorically.

“Music is your own reward. I don’t need Grammys or filled stadiums. I would play regardless.”

(c) WWD by David Moin


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