We lost another absolute icon last week. As far as I'm concerned Al Jarreau had no equal. Very few vocalists have displayed their talent with such flamboyance and dexterity. He was the essence of Jazz - A true improvisational master, and a superior ballad interpreter. Al would extend songs with off the wall inflictions that could lift a conventional standard to something far more emotive and divine. He was brash yet perfectly restrained, a feat achieved by only the very elite. He was joyful in his delivery and when combined with his beautiful voice and some fantastic songwriting, the result was pure soul healing. If you want proof of what a god given blessing he was to the human civilisation, listen to Look To The Rainbow which is in my opinion one of the greatest live albums of all time. Since his passing I've learnt that he even healed the planet in the most practical sense too. Al in fact worked as a vocal rehab counselor in the late 60s! It was at this time where he'd earn his break singing for George Duke's Trio.
It would be understandable to sleep on his ability. Admittedly as he gained critical acclaim, he began to conform to commercial appeal with much safer R&B and Pop recordings that would form the large majority of his output throughout the 80s and 90s. He became grammy fodder owned by an "adult contemporary" audience turning off both jazz purists and those yearning for something more left of centre. Nonetheless if you cared to listen, you would find he still shined. There are many standout moments in his smoother work too deliciously complicated for any old R&B crooner to pull off. His album L Is For Lover produced by none other than Disco icon Nile Rodgers is a slept on gem in my opinion. We're In This Love Together is an absolute classic two-stepper that stands up next to your favourite Bobby Caldwell or George Benson cuts. Even in his older age, Al managed to remain far more relevant than most of his contemporaries. Regrettably i never saw the man live. He continued to perform right until this year. As backed up by countless critical and fan reviews, I believe this was where he really stood out from the pack. Do yourself a favour and listen to some Al Jarreau today. I promise you'll feel better for doing it. RIP.
One for the House heads as famously utilised on Pepe Bradock's Deep Burnt.