The fact that we waited outside well past the door opening time should have clued us in that the extended sound check meant we were about to see and hear something special. Maybe the feint sound of the saxophone we heard should have tipped us off. But, none of us were keen enough to know what would occur until the end of Al Stewart’s extraordinary solo acoustic set at the Bluebird.
Joking that “Nashville must not be much of a music town,” Al began with the fact that he had not played Music City in over 25 years! To all, this came as quite a surprise since such a skilled songwriter and guitar player sure has a place here in Nashville, especially at a venue such as the Bluebird where these crafts are considered sacred.
Easily winning the prize as one of the most relaxed and pleasant entertainers I have ever seen, Stewart skipped around his catalog including several numbers in his specialty genre of historical songs. By the end of the night, his charming personality made us all feel like we had a new best friend.
And then the surprise came. Al was joined by then Nashville resident, Phil Kenzie, on saxophone. What made this pairing so special was the fact that Kenzie is British and was the player that producer Allan Parsons summoned to the studio to record the famous sax solo on Al’s biggest hit song. “Year of the Cat.”. Kenzie would later follow up on Stewart’s next LP again laying down sax on “Time Passages.” We were blessed to hear Phil reprise his role on both songs this night.
This was just one of those “only in Nashville moments” and Phil Kenzie made the moment even better by giving us the extended tale of how he reluctantly came to play on “Year of the Cat.” First off, Parsons wanted alto sax which Kenzie didn’t play. And, secondly, he also was home watching a movie and really wasn’t feeling up to it. Fortunately, Parsons was able to coax him to come over to the studio, Kenzie had just come across an alto sax, and the rest was music history.
Following this performance, I later got to meet Kenzie at Nashville Used Music on Nolensville Road where he worked, and we got to share this moment together. I got the sense that it was a night that he truly treasured.
Also, at this night’s Bluebird show travelling with Al was writer Neville Judd, who at the time had just penned the definitive biography on Al Stewart. It’s a fascinating read through Al’s career and the history of British folk music which I highly recommend you put on your reading list!
- Flying Sorcery
- House of Clocks
- Life in Dark Water
- Marion the Chatelaine
- On the Border
- Night Train to Munich
- Apple Cider Reconstitution
- Merlin’s Time
- Helen and Cassandra
- Roads to Moscow
- Clifton in the Rain
- Soho (Needless to Say)
- Year of the Cat
- Time Passages
- Samuel, Oh How You’ve Changed
Al Stewart—Vocals and Acoustic Guitar
Phil Kenzie—Saxophone on #13 & #14