Al Jarreau - Live with the Metropole Orkest (2012)

Al Jarreau
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If you’re a fan of jazz vocalists who add soul and a dash of pop to their work, you’re probably an Al Jarreau fan. Jarreau gained a reputation in the 1970s as a songwriter and vocalist who used his voice and his body as instruments. He released a series of highly regarded albums that earned him numerous Grammy nominations and seven trophies.

Jarreau became a mainstay on the pop, R&B and especially jazz charts from the late 1970s through the late 1980s with tunes such as “Distracted,” “Roof Garden,” “We’re In This Love Together,” and the theme from the TV show Moonlighting, to name a few.

Jarreau’s one-of-a-kind singing voice along with the way he used that voice and his body to replicate horns, guitars and percussion instruments helped make his live show a must-see event. And while Jarreau largely avoided the studio from 1992 until 2000,  he remained a busy live performer who even took to the theatrical stage as an actor.

If you’re a fan of jazz vocalists who add soul and a dash of pop to their work, you’re probably an Al Jarreau fan. Jarreau gained a reputation in the 1970s as a songwriter and vocalist who used his voice and his body as instruments. He released a series of highly regarded albums that earned him numerous Grammy nominations and seven trophies.

Jarreau became a mainstay on the pop, R&B and especially jazz charts from the late 1970s through the late 1980s with tunes such as “Distracted,” “Roof Garden,” “We’re In This Love Together,” and the theme from the TV show Moonlighting, to name a few.

Jarreau’s one-of-a-kind singing voice along with the way he used that voice and his body to replicate horns, guitars and percussion instruments helped make his live show a must-see event. And while Jarreau largely avoided the studio from 1992 until 2000,  he remained a busy live performer who even took to the theatrical stage as an actor.

The output that marked the first 18 years of Jarreau’s solo career is so well known and highly regarded that it overshadows Jarreau’s more recent work. However,  since Jarreau decided to return to the studio, he’s been productive. Live, Jarreau’s latest project, which is a recording of a live concert recorded with the Netherlands based Metropole Orkest in 2011, serves as a showcase for many of the underappreciated tunes of this later period.The album’s 11 tracks features five songs that Jarreau recorded after 2000 as well asa few jazz standards and a couple of his 1980s era hits.

Making a set list that features newer, lesser-known numbers is a risky proposition. Fans often want to hear the songs that were played on the radio, and with the exception of “We’re In This Love Together” and “After All,” on Live Jarreau eschews the music from his salad days. In terms of quality, this is not a bad decision as tunes such as “Cold Duck” and “Scootcha  Booty” contain lyrics that sport Jarreau’s trademark wittiness and humor while also managing to be pretty funky.

Vocally, Jarreau begins Live a little shaky. As most people know, the performer has been beset by a series of medical problems over the past two years. Jarreau voice wavers somewhat on the first two numbers – “Cold Duck and “Jacaranda Bougainvillea,” a tune penned as a tribute to Nelson Mandela.” However he starts to find his vocal bearings by the third song, “Flame.”

Jarreau reaches his comfort zone on standards such as “Auga De Beber” and the Ellington classic, “I’m Beginning to See The Light.” The latter is one of the highlights on Live. The orchestra absolutely swings and Jarreau proves to be the master of two very important aspects of jazz singing – vocal improvisation and vocal clarity.

It’s good to see that Jarreau’s health has improved to the point that he feels confident enough to perform live. And the CD Live provides a heartening indication that an  Al Jarreau is still a must see event. It will also serve as a revelation to casual fans, many of whom will discover for the first time the quality of music that Al Jarreau created – and continues to create – long after his commercial peak. Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 
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