With a career that spans five decades and nearly the full spectrum of musical genres – from jazz fusion to sugary R&B pop, Narada Michael Walden doesn’t have to make too many calls to pull together an all-star benefit show.
For 15 years, Walden has been putting on a holiday jam concert to benefit his eponymous foundation, which “promoting music education among Bay Area youth and making a difference with music in the lives of young people.”
For this year’s jam at , Walden has lined up a number of local stalwarts, including Tony Lindsay from the Santana Band, Tom Johnston from the Doobie Brothers, Lara Johnston, Jeanie Tracy, Janice Maxie-Reid, Raz Kennedy, Dale "Satchmo" Powers, Lynn Asher, Jimmy Dillon, Richard Howell, Manuel Romero, Brian Lloyd, Joyous Noise and more.
Walden’s 11-piece band, with the host on percussion, serves as the backbone of the evening. Tevin Campbell, who scored a No. 1 R&B hit in 1991 with the Walden-produced "Tell Me What You Want Me to Do,” is also expected to perform.
“It’s really god’s grace,” Walden said of the process of putting the lineup together. “I have a lot of good friend who love the cause of helping kids learn music, so it’s whoever is around at this time of year.”
For the 2010 holiday show, Walden brought out Clarence Clemons, the legendary saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and former Mill Valley resident. Clemmons died in June and Walden’s benefit jam is believed to be his last live performance.
“We loved him because of his big heart,” Walden said. “He was a great musician but it was that heart that makes him so precious. He was one of my closest friends and he was always there for me whenever I needed him. I still feel him to this day.”
Walden’s foundation puts on a number of music education events each year, including hosting students at his Tarpan Studios in San Rafael and walking them through the process of playing and recording music. He also visits music classes at schools like San Marin High to provide some hands-on instruction.
Walden has spent the latter part of 2011 recording a new album he plans to shop around in early 2012. The album, titled Thunder, is a fusion of “swampy blues, rock, funk and soul” that stemmed from Walden’s recent two-year stint touring with guitar great Jeff Beck, he said.
Walden said he hopes to land a label partner for the project to give it a broad platform. He said he’s dedicating 2012 to “rebuild this area and its place in music,” citing a recent meeting he had with longtime friend Carlos Santana about the possibility of creating an environment where they could sign local artists and put out records on their own.
“I’m excited – we want to let the sunshine in,” he said.
The 411: Narada Michael Walden’s 15th Annual Holiday Jam Benefit Concert is Saturday, Dec. 17 at 142 Throckmorton Theatre. Doors 7:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $75 general admission and $125 including a VIP reception and preferred seating. To buy tickets or for more info call 415.383.9600 or go to the Throckmorton's website.