Twenty years ago John Tesh rented the now departed Spadaro’s on Cannery Row for a dinner with his girlfriend. He had a string quartet deliver a song he composed specifically for his sweetie, and arranged for a barge to shoot fireworks into the night sky. Very romantic – besides the fact that the loud fireworks set off car alarms, making it hard to hear his marriage proposal.
He’ll be back in the area with his big band of 14 for a swinging spectacle on – surprise – the most romantic weekend of the year.
“The Monterey-Carmel area has a special meaning for me,” he says.
The orchestra will perform Tesh’s original jazz classics, in addition to some of Tesh’s favorites. These include tunes such as “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Summer Winds” by Frank Sinatra and “It Had Better Be Tonight” as seen in The Pink Panther.
Tesh never consumes enough jazz and swing music. “I drive my family crazy,” Tesh says. He’s talking Sammy Davis Jr., Jimmy Durante, Mel Torme and big band leaders like Cab Calloway.
Tesh’s now – famous music career started with a bold move.
“I’d been on television for many years,” he says, “but what I really wanted to do was raise my hand and say, ‘Hey, I’m a full-time musician, this is what I really want to be doing.’”
It wasn’t just a vanity project, with Tesh looking for a way to spend spare time and money. He had to take out a second mortgage on his home to finance his new career.
“I think of all the failures I’ve had in my life and chances I’ve taken,” he says. “My family and I are at a time where it’s never been more fun.”
He still plays host of the nationally syndicated radio program “Intelligence for Your Life” on weekdays. But on weekends, he and his band do their thing.
“I’m definitely living in the dream state,” he says.
Rapport with his band is a big part of that pleasure. “The diversity gives you that feeling of camaraderie,” he says. “When you sit in an orchestra, you learn tuning, time signature and how to blend in with them.”
Tesh says they plan to perform 12 to 15 tunes, but he adds this: “We won’t leave the stage until people are inspired to go home and get their clarinet out of the closet and start practicing.”
JOHN TESH AND HIS BIG BAND will play at 8pm Saturday, Feb. 12, at Sunset Center, Ninth and San Carlos, Carmel. $28, $40, $75 VIP. 620-2048, www.sunsetcenter.tix.com.