By Dennis J. Freeman
The music of Al Jarreau needs no introduction. As I highlighted this fact in this column a couple of days ago, Jarreau has been pushing out hits like After All, Mornin’, Boogie Down and so many others that he is a well-established musical icon in the pop/jazz arena.
I’ve always appreciated listening to Jarreau’s music, whether it’s being played on the radio or while I am cruising around town with one of his CD’s blaring from my speaker system.
But seeing the 70-year-old Jarreau perform live in concert gives me an even greater idea why he is the true musical master that he is today.
Outside of seeing a young Prince in his heyday, and an invigorated A Green, I can’t recall seeing a better live performance. Jarreau was simply sensational during the two and half hours he performed at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts recently.
My wife and I are big jazz fans, so we thought it would be wonderful to go see Jarreau. Needless to say, we were far from being disappointed. The first half hour alone of Jarreau’s performance would have done it for most artists. Fans attending got their money’s worth during the initial 30 minutes of the show when Jarreau belted out some of his most timeless hits such as Sweet Potato Pie.
Backed up with a well-tuned, tight, five-piece band, Jarreau’s voice sounded as beautiful as it does on those Grammy Award-winning hits he’s produced. Sitting there listening to Jarreau as he went through his unique way of expressing his splendid tenor voice was watching a true music genius at work.
There wasn’t an ounce of crackle in his voice as Jarreau be-bopped and crooned the music he’s famous for. In fact, listening to Jarreau live is like hearing a needle drop in a glass of ice water. But what was so fun and remarkable about Jarreau’s performance was his engagement with the audience.
Jarreau danced, pranced and acted as if he was a 30-year-old on stage. Jarreau wasn’t just a musician on stage; he was a little bit of everything. He cracked jokes. He called out audience members who walked in on the concert after it started. He even worked the part of an usher, directing folks from the balcony to a couple of empty front row seats.
Unlike some performers whom I’ve seen in the past, Jarreau gave his audience a home, welcoming feeling. In a recent interview with the legendary musician, Jarreau shared with me that one of the things audiences can expect from him is love.
Jarreau’s music is all about love. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why his music continues to be relevant after over 30 years of engaging our ears and swaying our hearts with soothing melodies. In many ways, Jarreau is our modern day musical maestro. As he closed his show, I couldn’t help but wonder if Jarreau will ever receive the recognition he deserves as the irreplaceable treasure that he is.