By Dennis J. Freeman
One of the good things about listening to Al Jarreau’s music is that you can’t quite fit it neatly into one box. Jarreau’s music is an intoxicating blend of Caribbean, Brazilian and Africana with a dash of gospel, old-school jazz and hard-driving funk.
The river smooth sound of Jarreau can at times be timeless and full of joyful soul as his smash hits, “After All” and “We’re in This Love Together” suggests.
At other times, Jarreau’s rhythmic be-bop and jazzed infused take on records like “Mornin’,” and “Boogie Down” can create an atmosphere of light-hearted warmth of relaxation and stillness, while you’re sipping on a cup of tea and reading a good book.
When people talk about the smooth sounds of jazz, they must have had Jarreau in mind. Jarreau, a seven-time Grammy Award winner, is about as smooth as they come. He may not have invented smooth, but he certainly embodies it through his music in a career that spans all the way back to the 1960s.
Jarreau brings that smoothness and his collection of unforgettable hits to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts this Friday at 8 p.m. In a spirited interview, Jarreau sounded a bit amazed at the longevity of his sterling career.
“It’s mysterious and marvelous and still going on,” Jarreau said. “It’s been the love and joy of my life. And my wife has tolerated me throughout. This music, this art really occupies a lot. I missed a lot of hours with my son.”
Spending time away from his family has often weighed on his mind. But Jarreau, whose “Look to the Rainbow” album earned him his first Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, has no regrets about the direction his life has taken.
His music has brought joy to millions. The lyrics to the songs he sings gives hope and inspiration to those who need it. A song by sung by Jarreau is more than a moving experience. At times, it can simply be the gentle words of encouragement.
“Read my mail,” said Jarreau. “We get mail from people who thank you for something you said in a song that they clung to when they were sick with poisoning from the Gulf War. For several years, if they clung to something you said in a song…if you’re better, I’m doing my job. I’m doing the right work.
“I’m doing God’s work-making people feel better, giving them the right message. I’m going to give you the word at an Al Jarreau concert. You’re going to hear the word God. You’re going to hear the word love. You’re not going to hear mother-this and mother-that. We are going to talk about things that are valuable and important.”
What’s important to Jarreau is his faith in God, his family and his music. It is his music that has set apart the internationally acclaimed Jarreau, who was feted with his own star on the renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001, from his peer as an artist. Jarreau doesn’t sit down and write as much as he used to do, but he’s still churning out the kind of music he’s famous for. The Very Best of Al Jarreau: An Excellent Adventure is the latest project the crooner has on the market.
Jarreau also has a special recording project he and the great George Duke recorded in the 60s, that is expected to be released this spring.
Jarreau has made a lot of music since he released his debut album, “We Got By” and after his career-changing LP, “Breakin’ Away.” What haven’t changed is the music and the man himself. That’s attributed to a higher source.
“The first principle, the first cause is this thing we call God,” Jarreau said. “Everything you see is God; the workings of God expressed.”