Malibu Seen: Big and bright at Pepperdine

Multitalented music man John Tesh has been making the rounds on his 2011-2012 tour, which included a swing by Pepperdine’s Smothers Theater a few weeks back. And talk about swinging! The joint was jumping to the sounds of “John Tesh’s Big Band Live.” 

After spending years as the face of the television powerhouse “Entertainment Tonight” along with Mary Hart, John went back to his first love, which has always been music. 

Although John has always been associated with a more mellow genre, this time it’s all oldies. Some of his old arrangements include classics like “The Summer Wind,” “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Blue Skies.” 

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John took some time out from his busy schedule to speak with Malibu Seen about his new change in musical direction. 

He says his father inspired his interest in the big band era. “My dad brought this music into our home when I was a kid. He served in World War II and this is the music they listened to on the ship,” he explains. “I went to what was essentially a performing arts elementary school and we played ‘easy’ versions of these songs in the jazz band.” 

John displayed his musical abilities early on, playing both the trumpet and piano in the orchestra. “There we were, seven-year-old kids, all playing big band. Looking back on it now, it was an incredible opportunity.’’ 

Putting the Big Band project together and changing his style wasn’t easy for John. “It’s more challenging,” the music maker says. “When I write for myself, I tend to write in my comfort zone. These jazz arrangements required hundreds of hours of relearning jazz piano, voicing and studying the playing of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Oscar Peterson.” 

John started the learning process little by little. “We’ve been testing out our Live Big Band shows over the last two years on the road and we could instantly see the way the people were reacting, smiling and singing along with me. My goal is always to make an emotional connection with my fans, so I was inspired.” 

But John wanted to put his own spin on the program. “The goal was not only to stay true to these classic songs, but to extend on the arrangements a bit. That way I had a chance to improvise on the piano.” All across the country, John says he has been thrilled with the results. 

Even though his Big Band Live concert is wrapping up, John is ready to roll into the holidays. “Big Band Christmas is sort of the best of all worlds,” he says. “You get a chance to celebrate with the classic carols, but then take those to a new level that turn ‘Jingle Bells,’ ‘Let it Snow’ and ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ into fun swing dance pieces.” 

Despite his passion for music, John says there are days he does miss the people at ET, calling them “a wonderful family.” As for free time, he says he really enjoys “looking at his wife.” And for leaving the hectic world of television, John says his syndicated radio show suits him just fine. “I can take it anywhere, and I don’t have to wear eyeliner,” he says. 

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