Young people perhaps would not know how Al Jarreau has contributed to music. He holds the record as the only Grammy winner in history who has received the award in four different decades (70’s, 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s) and across different genres (pop, R&B and jazz). As a seven-time Grammy award winner, Al Jarreau is known for carrying on the evolution of scat as a vocal jazz expertise.
His career is a shining example of how it’s never too late to embark on your passions. Born in the 1940’s, Al Jarreau recorded his first album when he was 35. He died February 12 – a month short of what could have been his 77th birthday. A rarity in the field, he is one of the very few musicians who graduated college with a degree in psychology and a Master’s in vocational rehabilitation.
He started his music career working only as a sideline, where he would play session music with pianist George Duke. He then left his San Francisco rehab job to join Duke’s trio tour the US and has since devoted his life full time to performing. After charting his first two albums in Germany, he went on to collaborate with musicians such as Earl Klugh, George Benson, Quincy Jones, Patti Austin and many others. Al Jarreau, for a time, was even an obscure sessionist lending his talents as vocal flute to Bill & Taffy’s Pass It On track. Bill & Taffy would soon regroup to become Starland Vocal Band with the hit Afternoon Delight.
He was the consummate performer – so much so that he extensively toured up until 2016. Teki has always been awed at how musicians like Al Jarreau have transcended age and continued to exhibit a kind of energy true to maintaining the purity of their craft.
The Al Jarreau Tribute Playlist
Teki has created a playlist of her favorite Al Jarreau vocals through the years. She tends to lean towards his early 80’s albums when Al was at the height of his prominence.
Apart from the obvious hits, Teki’s top favorite Jarreau track is Our Love. This was writing collaboration with Tom Canning and Jay Graydon. Jay Graydon is a renowned jazz songwriter and producer for over 200 songs including After the Love Has Gone by Earth,Wind and Fire, Who’s Holding Donna Now by Debarge, Smile Again by Manhattan Transfer. David Foster (a known collaborator with Graydon) performed the piano, synth and arranged for the strings rendition of Our Love in the Breakin’ Away album.
We have lost a true gem of a performer in Al Jarreau. Teki hopes that we will all get to look back at Al Jarreau’s career and thank him for his contribution to scat and jazz.