Wed. Oct. 20, 2021

Jazz singer Al Jarreau passed, aged 76

Jazz singer Al Jarreau passed, aged 76And the beat / list goes on with the passing of another one of our heroes by the likes of Al Jarreau, last . He left two weeks after an hospitalization due to exhaustion. Most probably because of a too heavy performing schedule at his age. This telling a lot aSundaybout the generosity of his. As an artist, but even more as an individual…

As a matter of fact, one could eventually see the following statement on his website… “[Jarreau’s]‘s second priority in life was music. His first priority, far ahead of the other, was healing or comforting anyone in need. Whether it was emotional pain, or physical discomfort, or any other cause of suffering, he needed to put our minds at ease and our hearts at rest. Song was just his tool for making that happen…” This most likely explaining how he came to contribute to the USA For Africa project and the memorable ‘We Are The World’ back in 1985 among others…

Growing up in Milwaukee, WI, as the son of a minister, Alwin Lopez Jarreau got into singing after joining the church choir. He initially planned to pursue social work and received a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology. Meanwhile, he would perform with a local group by the likes of The Indigos. He eventually wanted to go further and become a professional singer. And for that, he first moved to San Francisco, hooking up with George Duke with whom he formed a trio.

The first traces of Al Jarreau in terms of discography bring us back to 1964. Then he delivered 2 singles – ‘Shake Up’ and ‘I’m Not Afraid’ – on indie label Raynard. He would then strangely disappear from the radar for a bit more than 10 years. Quite an eternity which didn’t get him from signing a recording contract with Warner Bros. in the mid-70’s. His career instantly taking off after the release of his debut-LP – ‘We Got By’ – in 1975, featuring the outstanding ‘Rainbow In Your Eyes’. Jarreau getting the first of his seven Grammy Awards 2 years after for his live album, ‘Look To The Rainbow’.

Smooth is most likely one the first words coming to mind when thinking of Al Jarreau. Smooth to describe his unique approach blended with memorable scat parts. And smooth for Smooth Jazz, even though this happened to be like a shortcut. If not a cliché, as interestingly explained by Chris Barton on the Los Angeles Times

“Much like his longtime friend and kindred spirit George Duke, who died in August 2013, Jarreau owned that free-flowing and often breezy subgenre somewhat derisively known “smooth jazz”. In reality, it was a cross-pollination of Jazz with Funk, Pop and R&B that his voice helped establish in the 70’s and 80’s. From the nimble, rounded style that allowed him to glide from note to note in his biggest hit, “We’re In This Love Together’. To the feeling evoked by the sound of his name itself… Jarreau became synonymous with a bright sort of cool that soared beyond Jazz’s often sharp corners…”
And so true again when Barton states “Jarreau’s 50 year career defied such simple categorization.”

Mind you, there’s on one hand what the posterity recalls. Beginning with the popular successes. From ‘We’re In This Love Together’ to ‘Breaking Away”. Not to mention ‘Roof Garden’, ‘Boogie Down’ or the theme song to the ‘Moonlighting’ TV show. And on the other, the lesser side of the things often leaving space to unsung treasures.

How to not think of Freddie Hubbard re-recorded version of ‘Little Sunflower’? A cut that saw Jarreau delivering one of his most vibrant vocal performances ever? A cut which, to me, stands as one of the 7 wonders of the world. How not to think of the bright ‘Day By Day’. A jam which he recorded with Brit Jazz/Funk band Shakatak (our soundclip thereafter). And I could also mention ‘Blue Angel’ that saw him jamming in a House environment on a boiling hiot remix by the likes of Ralphi Rosario.

Jarreau collaborated with countless luminaries. From George Duke to Eumir Deodato. But also George Benson and Quincy Jones. Not to mention Jill Scott or Mario Biondi to name but a few.

In April 2016, former President Barack Obama invited him to perform for an “International Jazz Day” concert at the White House along with artists such as Aretha Franklin and Sting.

Al Jarreau had planned to perform in Illinois in late February. He sent an email to fans on Friday saying his medical team advised him to cancel his 2017 concert dates. “With complete sorrow, Al Jarreau must retire from touring. He is thankful for his 50 years of traveling the world in ministry through music, and for everyone who shared this with him,” a Feb. 08 statement said. He sadly died 2 days later.

Indamixworldwide would like to express their deepest condolences to Al Jarreau‘s wife, Susan, his son, Ryan, his whole family and friends…

Al‘s family is asking that donations be made to the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music. An establishment which offers scholarships and music opportunities to students living in his home town of Milwaukee…

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