Skip to main content
Select Source:

Jarreau, Al

Al Jarreau

1940—

Vocalist

Al Jarreau became one of the world's foremost vocalists in the mid-1970s and continued to give crowd-pleasing performances into the twenty-first century. While his eclectic style is difficult to categorize, he has won fans of various genres, including rhythm and blues, jazz, and pop. Borrowing from the scat tradition that evolved out of the bebop style of the 1940s, Jarreau became known as the "Acrobat of Scat." His unique vocal delivery, combined with his creative fusion of diverse musical genres, has earned him many awards and contributed to his longevity as a recording artist.

Majored in Psychology

Jarreau was born Alwyn Lopez Jarreau on March 12, 1940, in Milwaukee, WI. His father was a minister and his mother played piano in church. Jarreau was the fifth of six children, and he became involved in music early on in life, singing at the age of four. The family lived across the street from a Catholic church, and even though the family was not Catholic, the music Jarreau heard from the church influenced his love of music. "I'm not a Catholic, but I felt real close to it," he told the Chicago Tribune in 1992. "On Sunday mornings I was just hanging out with the paperboys, eating a sweet roll and drinking coffee. I heard the music of the Catholic church, and in parts of my music, it's in there."

Jarreau began singing in his own church and with neighborhood street harmony groups, filling whatever part was open. He sang in jazz bands in high school, but even then his musical repertoire was quite eclectic. "I know the lyrics to more polkas than most German and Czech people," he told the Chicago Tribune. "It's all in those wrinkled folds of gray matter."

While he never turned his back completely on his music, Jarreau put it on the back burner for a time after high school. He earned a degree in psychology from Ripon College in Wisconsin in 1962, and followed that with a master's degree from the University of Iowa in 1964. He then moved to San Francisco, where he worked as a rehabilitation counselor.

During his time in the Bay Area, music began to creep back into Jarreau's life. He began singing in nightclubs with a band called the Indigos, then landed a regular gig singing for the George Duke Trio three nights a week in clubs such as the Jazz Workshop, the Half Note, the Troubadour, and the Bitter West End. "I knew I would be doing music the rest of my life at some level, even if it was after work in a cocktail lounge in some Holiday Inn," he told the Chicago Tribune. In 1968 he finally achieved enough success to quit his day job. "I was just not ready for that kind of work," he told the Tribune. "I was inefficient or something. I got overwhelmed by it all…. After some talks with my supervisors, I told them, ‘I'm off to join the circus,’ and that was it."

Landed His First Record Contract

Jarreau's nightclub work began to expand, eventually branching out to include engagements in New York City. He crisscrossed the country for the next six years and performed on television variety shows on occasion. Jarreau was discovered in 1974, when he opened a show for Les McCann at the Troubadour in Hollywood. Several record company executives were in the audience, and his performance earned him a record contract. Two weeks later, he was in the studio recording his debut album.

That first album, We Got By, introduced the style that fans would expect from Jarreau over the years. Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert have most often been identified as Jarreau's primary influences, but his scat style is very eclectic, with some of his vocals being described as sounding African, Oriental, or Arabic. It includes tongue clicks, gasps, and nonsense syllables. Some of his vocals do not fall within a jazz framework at all, but sound unmistakably like rhythm and blues or soul.

In 1976 Jarreau released his second album, Glow, and he toured Europe for the first time. That tour was a watershed event in his life, for it was on that continent that he would enjoy some of his most enduring popularity. His third album, Look to the Rainbow (1977), was a live album recorded in Europe, and it included a song that would become one of his trademarks, a vocal version of the Dave Brubeck standard "Take Five." This album won Jarreau his first Grammy.

Two more Grammy Awards followed in 1977 and 1978, when he was named Best Jazz Vocal Performance. His 1980 album, This Time, brought in a new producer, Jay Graydon, and a focus on the material over Jarreau's personal style.

In 1981 Jarreau saw his breakthrough as a commercial pop artist. His album that year produced his fourth Grammy and two hit singles: "We're in This Love Together," which emphasized his pop singing ability more than his jazz style, and the title cut, "Breakin' Away." The following year saw another hit single, "Teach Me Tonight." He continued to record and tour throughout the 1980s and enjoyed an unusual amount of commercial success for a jazz artist.

Was Successful Because He Toured

His commercial success, though, came primarily from his singles, and not, despite the platinum status of Breakin' Away, from his albums. "I'm not one of those fortunate recording artists who have the luxury of continually producing big-selling albums," he admitted to the Los Angeles Times in 1986. "I really have remained alive as a recording artist because I'm out there touring a lot. People come to hear the Al Jarreau live concerts and, fortunately, some of them buy records."

At a Glance …

Born Alwyn Lopez Jarreau on March 12, 1940, in Milwaukee, WI; son of Emile and Pearl Jarreau; married Phyllis Hall (divorced); married Susan; children: Ryan. Education: Ripon College, BS, 1962; University of Iowa, MS, 1964.

Career: Handicap counselor, 1965-68; jazz vocalist and composer, 1968—; solo recording artist, 1975—.

Awards: Selected Awards: Cashbox's No. 1 Jazz Vocalist, 1976; Italian Music Critics' Award, Best Foreign Vocalist, 1977; winner of Down Beat's Readers' Poll, Best Male Vocalist, 1977-81; Grammy Award, Best Jazz Vocal Performance, 1977; Grammy Award, Best Jazz Vocal Performance, 1978; Grammy Award, Best Jazz Performance (Male), Best Jazz Performance (Male), 1981; Ripon College, Distinguished Alumni Award, 1982; Grammy Award, Best R&B Vocal Performance (Male), 1992; Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2001; Ford Freedom Award Scholar, 2005; Grammy Award (with George Benson), Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance, 2006.

Addresses: Web—http://www.aljarreau.com/.

One of the keys to Jarreau's commercial success was his appeal to music fans who were younger than the typical jazz fan. His fusion of other contemporary styles into his music brought him popularity with people who were not, strictly speaking, jazz fans. But as the 1990s dawned and Jarreau turned fifty, he began having more difficulty selling records to the younger demographic, and his sales began to slump. Four years passed between his last album of the 1980s, Heart's Horizon, and his first of the 1990s, Heaven and Earth, which won him his fifth Grammy Award in 1992. He kept busy in the interim by contributing songs to the films Skin Deep and Do the Right Thing. On Heaven and Earth, he tried to reclaim his share of the youth market by, as he told the Chicago Tribune, leaning "hard on my R&B side. I see that the R&B scene is changing. It's a revolution…. The music is live and angry. I see my fans saying, ‘What in the world is going on?’ I say to them, ‘While you listen to rap and scratch, take this album along with you as an alternative.’"

Misfortune struck Jarreau in late 1995, when his home in Encino, California, was damaged by an earthquake. It was also about this time that his contract with Warner Brothers ran out after twenty years. He recorded a few new songs for a greatest hits package in 1996, but it was unclear whether the contract would be renewed, and the impasse led to some hard feelings on Jarreau's part. "They sit there and throw handfuls of artist mud against the wall," he complained about the record business to the Los Angeles Times. "And what sticks they go and build a frame around for a few minutes. And I can tell you it's not a gilded frame in which they've invested a whole lot. What they really want is these still wet-behind-the-ears people who will color their hair a strange color, turn their lives over to some hot producer, be there for five minutes of airplay in a year, get their pictures in a magazine and then be gone. They don't want to deal with someone who understands the mechanism of this madness."

Preferred Live Performances to Recording

Jarreau had never been completely comfortable with the recording process, and he gave the impression that it would not be the worst thing for him if he had to return to making a living doing one-nighters across the country. He told the Los Angeles Times, "Everything that's happened for me up to now has worked because I go out there and I do a good show. I've been doing that for more than 20 years, and that's got nothing to do with the record company. I've stayed alive in the record business because I've been out there being a salesman, telling people, ‘Listen to this.’ They listen and bring a friend back, and that friend goes and buys a record and that's my new customer. I'll keep pounding on people's doors, and just keep on doing what I've been doing, asking them to listen to the songs I have to sing."

Jarreau also told the Los Angeles Times that he remained optimistic about his future. "It's been a good career," he asserted. "Am I concerned about where things now stand with my recordings? Sure. I'm as nervous as a frog on a freeway. I keep waiting for one of the shoes to fall. But I have high hopes, high apple pie in the sky hopes, and I'm still thinking that there's some serious success ahead of me."

In 2000 Jarreau began recording music for GRP Records, a subsidiary of the Universal Music Group, with whom he produced two highly successful albums: Tomorrow Today (2000) and All I Got (2002), which debuted at number three on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Album rankings. In 2001, in acknowledgment of his lifetime achievement in music, Jarreau received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Even though Jarreau was forced to take a hiatus from touring in September of 2002, for surgery related to a compressed spinal column, he soon returned to the stage and completed a European tour in 2003.

In 2004 he released Accentuate the Positive, which diplayed Jarreau's lyricism set to sparse accompaniment. The album received critical praise and was nominated for a Grammy Award for best jazz vocal album in 2005. In 2006 Jarreau teamed with jazz guitarist George Benson for Givin' it Up, which became one of Jarreau's most popular albums. At the Forty-ninth Grammy Awards in 2006, Jarreau and Benson shared the award for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for the song "God Bless the Child."

After winning his sixth Grammy Award in 2006, Jarreau continued traveling and performing across the United States and abroad. During a busy 2007 touring season, Jarreau visited Denmark, Germany, and France. As he has transitioned from popular music through jazz and R&B to adult contemporary, Jarreau continued to gain fans with his enthusiasm and infectious energy. When asked about his feelings on being a vocal artist in a 2005 interview with Ed Gordon of the National Public Radio, Jarreau said he wanted to impart a positive message telling each member of his audience, "You are a child of god and you can have a good day if you work on it."

Selected discography

Albums

We Got By, Warner Brothers, 1975.

Glow, Warner Brothers, 1976.

Look to the Rainbow, Warner Brothers, 1977.

All Fly Home, Warner Brothers, 1978.

This Time, Warner Brothers, 1980.

Breakin' Away, Warner Brothers, 1981.

Heart's Horizon, Warner Brothers, 1988.

Heaven and Earth, Warner Brothers, 1992.

Tenderness, Warner Brothers, 1994.

Tomorrow Today, GRP Records, 2000.

All I Got, GRP Records, 2002.

Accentuate the Positive, Verve Records, 2004.

Givin' it Up, Concord Music, 2006.

Sources

Books

Kernfeld, Barry, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Volume 1, St. Martin, 1994.

Larkin, Colin, ed., The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Volume 3, Groves Dictionaries, 1995.

Nite, Norm N., with Charles Crespo, Rock On: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock 'n' Roll—The Video Revolution, HarperCollins Children's Books, 1978.

Salzman, Jack, David Lionel Smith, and Cornel West, eds., Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Volume 3, Macmillan Library Reference, 1996.

Periodicals

Billboard, September 13, 2002; August 1, 2004.

Chicago Tribune, July 30, 1992.

Los Angeles Times, December 26, 1986; August 31, 1989; May 29, 1997.

Online

Gordon, Ed, "Al Jarreau: ‘Accentuate the Positive,’" National Public Radio,http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4494961 (accessed December 19, 2007).

—Mike Eggert and Micah L. Issit

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jarreau, Al." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jarreau, Al." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jarreau-al-1

"Jarreau, Al." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jarreau-al-1

Jarreau, Al 1940–

Al Jarreau 1940

Vocalist

At a Glance

Selected discography

Sources

Al Jarreau became one of the worlds foremost vocalists in the mid-1970s and continued to give crowd-pleasing performances into the 1990s. Though his eclectic style is difficult to categorize, Jarreau won fans of a number of different musical tastes, including rhythm and blues, jazz, and pop. Jarreau became known as the Acrobat of Scat for his use of African clicks and Oriental phrasing in his music, borrowing from the scat tradition that evolved out of the bebop style of the 1940s. This unique vocal delivery, combined with his creative fusion of diverse musical genres, earned him several awards and contributed to his longevity as a recording artist.

Jarreau was born Alwyn Lopez Jarreau on March 12, 1940 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father was a minister and his mother played piano in church. Al was the fifth of six children, and he became involved in music early on in life, singing at the age of four. The family lived across the street from a Catholic church, and although the family was not Catholic, the music Jarreau heard from the church influenced his love of music. Im not a Catholic, but I felt real close to it, he told the Chicago Tribune in 1992. On Sunday mornings I was just hanging out with the paperboys, eating a sweet roll and drinking coffee. I heard the music of the Catholic church, and in parts of my music, its in there.

Jarreau began singing in his own church and with neighborhood street harmony groups, filling whatever part was open. He sang in jazz bands in high school, but even then his musical repertoire was quite eclectic. I know the lyrics to more polkas than most German and Czech people, he told the Chicago Tribune. Its all in those wrinkled folds of gray matter.

While he never turned his back completely on his music, Jarreau put it on the back burner for a time after high school. He earned a degree in psychology from Ripon College in Wisconsin in 1962, and followed that up with a masters degree from the University of Iowa in 1964. He then moved to San Francisco, where he worked as a rehabilitation counselor.

During his time in the Bay Area music began to creep back into Jarreaus life. He began singing in nightclubs with a band called the Indigos, then landed a regular gig singing for the George Duke Trio three nights a week in

At a Glance

Born Alwyn Lopez Jarreau, March 12, 1940, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; son of Emile and Pearl Jarreau; married Phyllis Hall (divorced); married second wife, Susan; son, Ryan. Education: Ripon College, BS, 1962; University of Iowa, MS, 1964.

Career: Worked as a counselor for the handicapped in San Francisco, CA, 1965-68; jazz vocalist and composer, 1968-; solo recording artist, 1975-; Albums: We Got By, 1975; Glow, 1976; Look to the Rainbow, 1977; AII Fly Home, 1978; This Time, 1980; Breakin Away, 1981; L is for Lover, 1986; Hearts Horizon, 1988; Heaven and Earth, 1992.

Selected awards: Cashboxs No. 1 jazz vocalist, 1976; Italian Music CriticsAward, Best Foreign Vocalist, 1977; winner of Down Beat Magazines Readers Poll, Best Male Vocalist, 1977-81; Grammy Award, Best Jazz Vocalist, 1978-79; Grammy Award, Best Pop Vocal, 1981.

clubs such as the Jazz Workshop, the Half Note, the Troubadour, and the Bitter West End. I knew I would be doing music the rest of my life at some level, even if it was after work in a cocktail lounge in some Holiday Inn, he told the Chicago Tribune. In 1968 he finally achieved enough success to quit his day job. I was just not ready for that kind of work, he told the Tribune. I was inefficient or something. I got overwhelmed by it allAfter some talks with my supervisors, I told them, Im off to join the circus, and that was it.

Jarreaus nightclub work began to expand, eventually branching out to include engagements in New York City. He crisscrossed the country for the next six years, and performed on television variety shows on occasion. Jarreau was discovered in 1974, when he opened a show for Les McCann at the Troubadour in Hollywood. Several record company executives were in the audience, and his performance earned him a record contract. Two weeks later he was in the studio recording his debut album.

That first album, We Got By, introduced the style that fans would expect from Jarreau over the years. Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert have most often been identified as Jarreaus primary influences, but his scat style is very eclectic, with some of his vocals being described as sounding African, Oriental or Arabic. It includes tongue clicks, gasps, and nonsense syllables. Some of his vocals do not fall within a jazz framework at all, but rather sound unmistakably like rhythm and blues or soul.

In 1976 Jarreau released his second album, Glow, and toured Europe for the first time. That tour was a watershed event in his life, for it was on that continent that he would enjoy some of his most enduring popularity. His third album, 1977s Look to the Rainbow, was a live album recorded in Europe, and it included a song that would become one of his trademarks, a vocal version of the Dave Brubeck standard Take Five. That album won Jarreau his first Grammy.

Another Grammy would follow in 1978, when Jarreau was named Best Jazz Vocalist. His album that year, All Fly Home, contained cover versions of Shes Leaving Home and Sittin on the Dock of the Bay. He was named Best Jazz Vocalist at the Grammy Awards again in 1979. His 1980 album, This Time, brought in a new producer, Jay Graydon, and a focus on the material over Jarreaus personal style.

In 1981 Jarreau saw his breakthrough as a commercial pop artist. His album that year produced his fourth Grammy and two hit singles: Were in This Love Together, which emphasized his pop singing ability more than his jazz style, and the title cut, Breakin Away. The following year saw another hit single, Teach Me Tonight. He continued to record and tour throughout the 1980s, and enjoyed an unusual amount of commercial success for a jazz artist.

His commercial success, though, came primarily from his singles, and not, despite the platinum status of Breakin Away, from his albums. Im not one of those fortunate recording artists who have the luxury of continually producing big-selling albums, he admitted to the Los Angeles Times in 1986. I really have remained alive as a recording artist because Im out there touring a lot. People come to hear the Al Jarreau live concerts and, fortunately, some of them buy records.

One of the keys to Jarreaus commercial success was his appeal to music fans who were younger than the typical jazz fan. His fusion of other contemporary styles into his music brought him popularity with people who were not, strictly speaking, jazz fans. But as the 1990s dawned and Jarreau turned 50, he began having more difficulty selling records to the younger demographic, and his sales began to slump. Four years passed between his last album of the 1980s, Hearts Horizon, and his first of the 1990s, Heaven and Earth. He kept busy in the interim by contributing songs to the films Skin Deep and Do the Right Thing. On Heaven and Earth he tried to reclaim his share of the youth market by, as he told the Chicago Tribune, leaning hard on my R&B side. I see that the R&B scene is changing, he went on. Its a revolution. The music is live and angry. I see my fans saying, What in the world is going on? I say to them, While you listen to rap and scratch, take this album along with you as an alternative.

Misfortune struck Jarreau in late 1995, when his fairly new Encino, California, home was damaged by an earthquake. It was also about this time that his contract with Warner Brothers ran out after 20 years. He recorded a few new songs for a greatest hits package in 1996, but it was unclear whether the contract would be renewed, and the impasse led to some hard feelings on Jarreaus part. They sit there and throw handfuls of artist mud against the wall, he complained about the record business to the Los Angeles Times. And what sticks they go and build a frame around for a few minutes. And I can tell you its not a gilded frame in which theyve invested a whole lot. What they really want is these still wet-behind-the-ears people who will color their hair a strange color, turn their lives over to some hot producer, be there for five minutes of airplay in a year, get their pictures in a magazine and then be gone. They dont want to deal with someone who understands the mechanism of this madness.

Jarreau had never been completely comfortable with the recording process, and he gave the impression that it would not be the worst thing for him if he had to return to making a living doing one-nighters across the country. Everything thats happened for me up to now, he told the Los Angeles Times, has worked because I go out there and I do a good show. Ive been doing that for more than 20 years, and thats got nothing to do with the record company. Ive stayed alive in the record business because Ive been out there being a salesman, telling people, Listen to this. They listen and bring a friend back, and that friend goes and buys a record and thats my new customer. Ill keep pounding on peoples doors, and just keep on doing what Ive been doing, asking them to listen to the songs I have to sing.

Jarreau also told the newspaper he remained optimistic about his future. Its been a good career, he asserted. Am I concerned about where things now stand with my recordings? Sure. Im as nervous as a frog on a freeway. I keep waiting for one of the shoes to fall. But I have high hopes, high apple pie in the sky hopes, and Im still thinking that theres some serious success ahead of me.

Selected discography

We Got By, Warner Brothers, 1975.

Glow, Warner Brothers, 1976.

Look to the Rainbow, Warner Brothers, 1977.

All Fly Home, Warner Brothers, 1978.

This Time, Warner Brothers, 1980.

Breakin Away, Warner Brothers, 1981.

Jarreau, Warner Brothers, 1983.

High Crime, Warner Brothers, 1984.

L is for Lover, Warner Brothers, 1986.

Hearts Horizon, Warner Brothers, 1988.

Heaven and Earth, Warner Brothers, 1992.

Tenderness, Warner Brothers, 1994.

Best of Al Jarreau, Warner Brothers, 1996.

Sources

Books

Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Volume Three, edited by Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith and Cornel West, Macmillan Library Reference, 1996.

The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Volume Three, edited by Colin Larkin, Groves Dictionaries, 1995.

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Volume One, edited by Barry Kernfeld, St. Martin, 1994.

Rock On, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock n Roll, The Video Revolution, by Norm N. Nite, with Charles Crespo, HarperCollins Childrens Books, 1978.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, July 30, 1992, section 5, p. 3.

Los Angeles Times, December 26, 1986, section VI, p. 2; August 31, 1989, section VI, p. 7; May 29, 1997, p. 15.

Mike Eggert

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jarreau, Al 1940–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jarreau, Al 1940–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jarreau-al-1940

"Jarreau, Al 1940–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jarreau-al-1940

Jarreau, Al

Al Jarreau

American singer Al Jarreau (born 1940) built his long career on a distinctive sound that encompassed many musical styles. The five-time Grammy winner was one of the very few artists ever to receive best vocalist awards in the three genres of jazz, pop, and rhythm and blues. And in 2005, 30 years after the release of his first recording, Jarreau was far from contemplating retirement.

Education First

Jarreau was born on March 12, 1940, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father was a minister, and Jarreau and his brothers began singing in the church as youngsters. As he recalled to Mike Osegueda of the Fresno Bee, "The real truth is that the singing was first and was a love since I've been conscious. I've always done it. I can't remember a time when I didn't." Despite this early certainty about his passion, however, Jarreau had many interests and sufficient practicality to explore other avenues as well.

As a student at Milwaukee's Lincoln High School, Jarreau was a star athlete and earned respectable grades. Intent upon expanding his world view, he started undergraduate studies at Wisconsin's Ripon College in 1958. He became a productive member of the college community there, involving himself in such pursuits as basketball, student council, and service as the freshman class president. Nor did he neglect music, as he was a member of a four-person jazz vocal ensemble called The Indigos. The group performed at local venues around the state until Jarreau graduated with a degree in psychology in 1962.

Singing remained a sideline for Jarreau as he headed to the University of Iowa to earn a master's degree in vocational rehabilitation. He then moved to San Francisco, California, to work as a rehabilitation counselor. It was not long, however, before Jarreau's first love began to rise to the forefront of his aspirations.

Five-Time Grammy Winner

In San Francisco, Jarreau met another celebrity-in-the-making, George Duke, and began performing with his trio. As the group played small jazz clubs in the Bay Area, Jarreau became convinced that music would become not just an avocation, but his career. Toward that end, he moved to Los Angeles and started working the club circuit there. He cut his teeth at such noted venues as Dino's and the Bitter End West before expanding his efforts to the East Coast of the United States, where he gained national exposure on network television via such household names of the time as Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, and David Frost. He also provided musical interludes for such up-and-coming comics as John Belushi, Bette Midler, and Jimmie Walker at the famed comedy club—The Improv—in New York City, New York. It took a while before the record companies noticed Jarreau, but it did not take forever.

In 1975 Jarreau's faith in following his dream was rewarded with a recording contract with Warner Brothers Records. The resulting debut album, We Got By, which garnered a German Grammy for best new international soloist, launched a career that spanned decades and earned the artist worldwide fame.

Jarreau went on to release many highly acclaimed recordings, including the Grammy-winning Look to the Rainbow (1977), All Fly Home (1978), Breakin' Away (1981) and Heaven and Earth (1992). Breakin' Away earned him two Grammys, one for best male pop vocal performance and one for best male jazz vocal performance; and his fifth Grammy (best male rhythm and blues performance, for Heaven and Earth) completed the triumvirate by placing Jarreau in the rarefied position of winning Grammys in three categories: jazz, pop, and rhythm and blues.

Jarreau also racked up Grammy nominations for 1980's This Time, 1987's Moonlighting (the theme song for the hit television series of the same name), and 1988's Heart's Horizon. Later recordings included Tenderness (1994) and his first compilation album, Best of Al Jarreau (1996). Along the way the singer found time to branch out into acting, with a stint on Broadway in Grease! and guest appearances on such television programs as New York Undercover and Touched By An Angel.

For all his success and accolades, however, Jarreau remained frustrated that his distinctive singing style never received the radio play and record sales of a pop star. His technique combined the qualities of jazz great Jon Hendricks with the cool interpretations of the legendary Nat King Cole, without neglecting the clarity of a Frank Sinatra or scatting worthy of the matchless Ella Fitzgerald. Jarreau's singular style created a new sound altogether and it was, undoubtedly, the very versatility of his voice that caused him to be labeled a jazz vocalist. But that did not lessen the sting. "I'm not as bitter as I am disappointed," he told Cathalena E. Burch of the Arizona Daily Star. "My name gets mentioned alongside Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder and Al Green. These guys have had really big records. I've never sold a million records in an outing…. I'd like to really have some chart success." Still, Jarreau was not a man to waste time questioning a career that did, after all, include awards that other musicians only rarely achieve. Being downhearted was simply not his way and, besides, there was work to be done.

Strong Later Career

After nearly 25 years with Warner, Jarreau was reunited with his old friend and producer Tommy LiPuma when he signed on with GRP Records at the close of the twentieth century. GRP was a division of the Verve Music Group, of which LiPuma was chairman, and Jarreau seemed delighted to be working again with the man who had produced his 1970s recordings Glow and Look to the Rainbow. He told John Soeder of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "When Tommy and I get together to work, we kind of fulfill in our own little way the dreams of the music muses by continuing a relationship that began years ago." The new collaboration resulted in Tomorrow Today (2000), All I Got (2002), and a greatly-anticipated foray back into jazz standards, Accentuate the Positive (2004). Despite being commercially thwarted by being pigeonholed as a jazz vocalist for so long, Jarreau maintained that Accentuate the Positive was the first true jazz recording he had ever made. "It's really the first jazz record I've ever done," he told Dan Ouellette of Billboard. "Everything else that came before was pop and R&B. If people called the early stuff jazz, that's fine…. My audience has been asking for a full-on, straight-ahead jazz album. So, it's for them as well as myself. This is a thanks to the kind of music that made me the person I am today." Recorded live in a sound studio, the recording was unique in both content and sound. There were no string arrangements, no background vocals, and no overdubs. And the material included Jarreau's singular take on such standards as Johnny Mercer's Accentuate the Positive and Duke Ellington's I'm Beginning to See the Light, as well as new lyrics and spins on such tunes as Eddie Harris's Cold Duck Time (re-named Cold Duck) and Dizzy Gillespie's Groovin' High. He described the effort to Zan Stewart of the Newark Star-Ledger: "This is not what Betty Carter or Jon Hendricks or Carmen (McRae) would do. It's Jarreau's step into that arena."

The new century also saw fresh recognition for Jarreau, as more awards were added to an already burgeoning roster that included (in addition to his five Grammys) an honorary doctorate in performing arts (1988) and a Distinguished Alumni Award (1982) from Ripon College. The later additions included a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in March of 2001, and the Ford Freedom Award Scholar honor in July of 2005. Jay Albert, managing director of Cleveland's 26th annual Tri-C JazzFest, was apparently not understating the case when he described Jarreau to Soeder as a "perennial favorite."

Clearly, Jarreau's entry into his 60s (including major back surgery in 2002) did little to slow his pace or limit his musical contributions. As he told Soeder, "However late this is in my life, the old dog has gotta learn a few new tricks. I hate being boring to people." He was mindful of his debt to a variety of musical genres, telling Jet, "There's such great music to make in this world, and I've been exposed to a lot of it. I've absorbed it all into my system and I think that accounts for the diversity." The versatile singer continued to tour and record with spirit and facility, and succeeded in retaining both a continuing love of his art and a positive outlook. He described the latter to Ouellette: "Music is the fountain of youth. The creative process rejuvenates me. I live to experience that vitality." At least as much to the point were Jarreau's words to Ed Condran of the Virginian Pilot. "I feel like I'm just starting the second half of my career. I hope I'm fortunate enough to be doing this well into my 70s and 80s…. I know this isn't the case for everybody at my age or even younger, but I still get so turned on by the craft. The great thing about this business is making the music. I've never gotten caught up with the trappings. You can't get caught up in the limousines and the chicks. The most important thing is the music." Thirty years in the business, and Jarreau's commitment to the music was still knocking them out.

Periodicals

Arizona Daily Star, February 15, 2002.

Billboard, October 26, 2002; August 21, 2004.

Fresno Bee, November 29, 2002.

Houston Chronicle, March 12, 2005.

Jet, March 26, 2001; September 16, 2002; July 4, 2005.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 11, 1999; December 11, 1999.

Plain Dealer (Cleveland), April 15, 2005.

Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY), June 21, 2002.

Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), August 20, 2004.

Virginian Pilot, August 13, 2001.

Online

"About Al," Al Jarreau, http://www.aljarreau.com/about/officialbio/ (January 15, 2006).

"Al Jarreau," NNDB, http://www.nndb.com/people/173/000024101/ (January 15, 2006).

"Alwin 'Al' Jarreau," Ripon College Archives, http://www.ripon.edu/library/archives/reference/jarreau.html (January 15, 2006).

"Discography ,"Al Jarreau, http://www.aljarreau.com/discography/ (January 15, 2006).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jarreau, Al." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jarreau, Al." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/jarreau-al

"Jarreau, Al." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/jarreau-al

Jarreau, Al

Al Jarreau

Singer, songwriter

Al Jarreau is regarded by many fans as the quintessential jazz vocalist. Schooled in the jazz tradition that produced such scat singers as Billie Holiday and Nat "King" Cole, Jarreau has adapted the style to become one of jazz-fusion's premier voices. His remarkable versatility and originality have earned the singer/songwriter widespread acclaim, including two Grammy Awards for Best Male Vocalist as well as several European music awards. Dubbed the Acrobat of Scat, Jarreau, for many critics, stands unrivaled by other singers of his generation.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jarreau grew up as part of a musically inclined family. His father, a Seventh-day Adventist minister, was an accomplished singer, and his mother was a church pianist. Some of Jarreau's earliest musical experiences, in fact, involved church music. As he told Robert Palmer in an interview for Rolling Stone: "I can remember rocking on my mother's knee in church, hearing music and being transported by it. I think I got transported sometime way back there and never really came back yet; some part of me is still way off out there."

As a youth, however, Jarreau was exposed to more than just church music. He listened to everything from country music to the then-popular tunes of entertainers such as Patti Page, Frankie Lane, and the Four Freshmen, whose harmonizing ability he particularly admired. In addition, Jarreau sang songs from Broadway shows as a high school student, and he fell in love with jazz. Indeed, throughout his college and graduate school years, as well as during his days as a counselor for the handicapped in San Francisco, Jarreau found time for jazz.

Devoted to Music

Finally, in 1968, the singer decided to give up his counseling career and devote his full attention to music. Although he had been singing in San Francisco nightclubs as a sideline to his primary career, even performing with pianist George Duke's jazz trio, the transition to full-time musicianship was a difficult one for Jarreau. He spent nearly a year teamed with Brazilian guitarist Julio Martinez, entertaining at Gatsby's, a jazz club in Sausalito, California. He then moved on to Los Angeles and subsequently to New York City. But despite performances in many eminent venues, Jarreau was unable to secure a recording contract. Though this was not considered unusual in the late 1960s, when heavy metal and acid rock were in vogue, Jarreau decided to head back to his hometown, Milwaukee, where he temporarily fronted his own jazz-rock group.

Shortly thereafter, Jarreau returned to Los Angeles where, still unable to interest the record producers, he continued to develop his repertoire of vocal techniques and began creating his own lyrics. Before long he became a popular performer at Studio City's Bla Bla Cafe, and his career was launched after Warner Bros. president Mo Austin heard him perform at the Troubador in Hollywood. Austin signed the singer to a contract in 1975, and Warner Bros. released his first album, We Got By, that same year.

Scat Singing

Comprised mostly of original songs, We Got By showcased the versatility and inventiveness that had earned Jarreau such a devoted local following. He is most highly praised for his innovative scat singing. Scat, an improvisational vocal style that evolved with be-bop in the 1940s, uses nonsense words and syllables for vocal effect. Jarreau is credited with both continuing and adapting the tradition of such greats as Billie Holiday, Nat "King" Cole, John Hendricks, and Dave Lambert. Palmer observed that "while the scat singers of previous generations imitated saxophones and trumpets with their shun-diddly-do-wahs and jazz drummers with their oop-bop-sh'bams, Jarreau imitates the electronic and percussive hardware of the Seventies."

After We Got By, Jarreau continued to record well-received albums. His next, Glow, incorporated some pop, Look to the Rainbow was a live recording, and All Fly Home combined originals with oldies. Although Jarreau had toured Europe, where he was enormously popular, the artist remained relatively unknown in the United States, despite Grammy Awards for best male jazz vocalist in 1978 and 1979, until the commercial success of Breakin' Away in 1981.

Jarreau's very success, however, gave some critics cause for disappointment. Some reviewers disparaged Breakin' Away for relying on formula ballads that pleased pop fans while neglecting the scat skills that made Jarreau one of jazz-fusion's top talents. Similar laments greeted the artist's succeeding albums, with releases such as High Crime and L Is for Lover regarded by jazz purists as pop-funk-style commercial recordings.

Regardless of the criticism accorded his albums, however, Jarreau has rarely given anything but superlative live performances. Indeed, the Acrobat of Scat is a charismatic performer who delights in displaying the full range of his vocal talents and refuses to be limited by anyone. He told Down Beat's Steve Bloom: "I like to do a lot of music, so I don't intend to be confined by my critics or anybody else. I might want to do some punk rock & roll someday. And I like to sing rhythm & blues, too. I may funk for an album and then do some jazz. Or my next thing might be inspired by some classical piece of music 'cause that's in me too. But you can be sure of one thing—whatever it is I do, it'll always be fine music."

For the Record …

Born Alwyn Lopez Jarreau on March 12, 1940, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; son of Emile (a minister and welder) and Pearl (a pianist) Jarreau; married Phyllis Hall (divorced); married second wife, Susan. Education: Ripon College, B.S., 1962; University of Iowa, M.S., 1964.

Worked as counselor for the handicapped in San Francisco, 1965-68; jazz vocalist and composer, 1968-; solo recording artist, 1975-; has appeared on television and in film; continued to record for Warner Brothers, releasing Heart's Horizon, 1988, Heaven and Earth, 1992, and Tenderness, 1994; issued three albums for GRP/Verve, Tomorrow Today, 2000, All I Got, 2002, and Accentuate the Positive 2004; recorded Givin' It Up with guitarist-singer George Benson, 2006; appeared in the Broadway version of Grease.

Awards: German Music Academy, outstanding male vocalist, 1976; Cashbox magazine, number one jazz vocalist, 1976; Italian Music Critics Award, best foreign vocalist, 1977; winner of Down Beat magazine readers' poll for best male vocalist, 1977-81; National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Grammy Awards for Best Male Vocalist, 1978 and 1979; recipient of Mabel Mercer Award; Grammy Award, Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, for Heaven and Earth, 1992; Grammy Award, Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance, for "God Bless the Child" (with George Benson and Jill Scott), 2006.

Addresses: Office—c/o Patrick Rains, 8752 Holloway Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Jarreau continued to record for Warner Brothers through the mid-1990s, issuing Heart's Horizon in 1988 and Heaven and Earth in 1992. His relationship with the label, however, came to an end after the release of Tenderness in 1994 and a greatest hits collection in 1996. In 1992 Jarreau won a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for Heaven and Earth, and his albums landed on both the jazz and R&B charts. For many reviewers, Jarreau continued to produce solid work, but it had also become predictable. This changed when Jarreau began recording for Verve/GRP and was reunited with producer Tommy LiPuma. Together the team issued three top-notch albums, Tomorrow and Today (2000), All I Got (2002), and Accentuate the Positive (2004). "Whether it's yesterday, today, or tomorrow," Jonathan Widran wrote of Today and Tomor-row in All Music Guide, "Al Jarreau never fails to keep listeners on their toes."

Jarreau's artistic winning streak continued in 2006 with the issue of Givin' It Up, an album recorded with jazz singer-guitarist George Benson for Concord. The album rose to number 14 on the R&B charts and climbed all the way to the number one position on the jazz charts. In 2007 he received a Grammy, along with George Benson and Jill Scott, for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for "God Bless the Child." In addition to his career as a musician, he also received a Verizon Literacy Champion Award for his volunteer work and played the role of the Teen Angel in a Broadway version of Grease. Jarreau explained to Tamar Alexia Fleisman on the Courtney Pulitzer Creations website why he believed his music was sometimes misunderstood. "People have always thought of me as a jazz singer, but the real truth is that all my records are R&B/pop with undertones and overtones of jazz."

Selected discography

We Got By, Warner Bros., 1975.

Glow, Warner Bros., 1975.

Look to the Rainbow, Warner Bros., 1977.

All Fly Home, Warner Bros., 1980.

This Time, Warner Bros., 1981.

Breakin' Away, Warner Bros., 1981.

Jarreau, Warner Bros., 1983.

High Crime, Warner Bros., 1984.

Jarreau in London, Warner Bros., 1985.

L Is for Lover, Warner Bros., 1986.

Heart's Horizon, Reprise, 1988.

Heaven and Earth, Reprise, 1992.

Tenderness, Warner Bros., 1994.

Tomorrow's Today, GRP, 2000.

All I Got, GRP, 2002.

Accentuate the Positive, Verve, 2004.

(with George Benson) Givin' It Up, Concord, 2006.

Sources

Books

Coryell, Julie, and Laura Friedman, Jazz-Rock Fusion: The People, the Music, Dell, 1978.

Down Beat, March 23, 1978; April 19, 1979; February, 1981; February, 1982.

Periodicals

Essence, August 1979; February 1982; March 1985.

Jet, April 8, 1985; August 18, 1986; November 16, 1987.

New York Times, May 8, 1984.

Rolling Stone, January 25, 1979; October 29, 1981.

Online

"Al Jarreau," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (July 17, 2007).

"Al Jarreau Interview," Courtney Pulitzer Creations, http://www.pulitzer.com (July 17, 2007).

—Nancy H. Evans and Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jarreau, Al." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jarreau, Al." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jarreau-al-0

"Jarreau, Al." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jarreau-al-0

Jarreau, Al

Al Jarreau

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Al Jarreau is regarded by many fans as the quintessential jazz vocalist. Schooled in the jazz tradition that produced such scat singers as Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole, Jarreau has adapted the style to become one of jazz-fusions premier voices. His remarkable versatility and orginality have earned the singer/songwriter widespread acclaim, including two Grammy Awards for best male vocalist as well as several European music awards. Dubbed the Acrobat of Scat, Jarreau, for many critics, stands unrivaled by other singers of his generation.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jarreau grew up as part of a musically inclined family. His father, a Seventh-day Adventist minister, was an accomplished singer, and his mother was a church pianist. Some of Jarreaus earliest musical experiences, in fact, involved church music. As he told Robert Palmer in an interview for Rolling Stone: I can remember rocking on my mothers knee in church, hearing music and being transported by it. I think I got transported sometime way back there and never really came back yet; some part of me is still way off out there.

As a youth, however, Jarreau was exposed to more than just church music. He listened to everything from country music to the then-popular tunes of entertainers such as Patti Page, Frankie Lane, and the Four Freshmen, whose harmonizing ability he particularly admired. In addition, Jarreau sang songs from Broadway shows as a high school student, and he fell in love with jazz. Indeed, throughout his college and graduate school years, as well as during his days as a counselor for the handicapped in San Francisco, Jarreau found time for jazz.

Finally, in 1968, the singer decided to give up his counseling career and devote his full attention to music. Although he had been singing in San Francisco night clubs as a sideline to his primary career, even performing with pianist George Dukes jazz trio, the transition to full-time musicianship was a difficult one for Jarreau. He spent nearly a year teamed with Brazilian guitarist Julio Martinez, entertaining at Gatsbys, a jazz club in Sausalito, California, then moved on to Los Angeles and subsequently to New York City. But despite performances in many eminent venues, Jarreau was unable to secure a recording contract. Though this was not considered unusual in the late 1960s, when heavy metal and acid rock were in vogue, Jarreau decided to head back to his hometown, Milwaukee, where he temporarily fronted his own jazz-rock group.

Shortly thereafter, Jarreau returned to Los Angeles, where, still unable to interest the record producers, he continued to develop his repertoire of vocal techniques and began creating his own lyrics. Before long he

For the Record

Full name, Alwyn Lopez Jarreau; born March 12, 1940, in Milwaukee, Wis. ; son of Emile (a minister and welder) and Pearl (a pianist) Jarreau; married Phyllis Hall (divorced); married second wife, Susan. Education: Ripon College, B.S., 1962; University of Iowa, M.S., 1964.

Worked as a counselor for the handicapped in San Francisco, Calif., 1965-68; jazz vocalist and composer, 1968; solo recording artist, 1975. Has appeared on television and in film.

Awards: Named outstanding male vocalist by German Music Academy, 1976; named number one jazz vocalist by Cashbox magazine, 1976; Italian Music Critics Award for best foreign vocalist, 1977; winner of down beat magazine readers poll for best male vocalist, 1977-81; Grammy Awards from National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1978 and 1979, for best male vocalist; Emmy Award nomination from National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1985, for musical theme for television series Moonlighting; recipient of Mabel Mercer Award.

Addresses: Office c/o Patrick Rains, 8752 Holloway Dr., Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

became a popular performer at Studio Citys Bla Bla Cafe, and his career was launched after Warner Bros, president, Mo Austin, heard him perform attheTroubador in Hollywood. Austin signed the singer to a contract in 1975, and Warner Bros, released his first album, We Got By, that same year.

Comprised mostly of original songs, We Got By showcased the versatility and inventiveness that had earned Jarreau such a devoted local following. He is most highly praised for his innovative scat singing. Scat, an improvisational vocal style that evolved with be-bop in the 1940s, uses nonsense words and syllables for vocal effect. Jarreau is credited with both continuing and adapting the tradition of such greats as Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, John Hendricks, and Dave Lambert. Writing for Rolling Stone, Robert Palmer observed that while the scat singers of previous generations imitated saxophones and trumpets with their shun-diddly-do-wahs and jazz drummers with their oop-bop-shbams, Jarreau imitates the electronic and percussive hardware of the Seventies.

After We Got By, Jarreau continued to record well-received albums. His next, Glow, incorporated some pop, Look to the Rainbow was a live recording, and All Fly Home combined originals with oldies. Although Jarreau had toured Europe, where he was enormously popular, the artist remained relatively unknown in the United States, despite Grammy Awards for best male jazz vocalist in 1978 and 1979, until the commercial success of Breakin Away in 1981.

Jarreaus very success, however, has given some critics cause for disappointment. There are reviewers, for example, who disparage Breakin Away for relying on formula ballads that please pop fans while neglecting the scat skills that have made Jarreau one of jazz-fusions top talents. Similar laments have greeted the artists succeeding albums, with recent releases, like High Crime and L Is for Lover, regarded by jazz purists as pop-funk style commercial recordings.

Regardless of the criticism accorded his albums, however, Jarreau rarely gives anything but superlative live performances. Indeed, the Acrobat of Scat is a charismatic performer who delights in displaying the full range of his vocal talentsand who refuses to be limited by anyone. As he told down beats Steve Bloom: I like to do a lot of music, so I dont intend to be confined by my critics or anybody else. I might want to do some punk rock & roll someday. And I like to sing rhythm & blues, too. I may funk for an album and then do some jazz. Or my next thing might be inspired by some classical piece of music cause thats in me too. But you can be sure of one thingwhatever it is I do, itll always be fine music.

Selected discography

Released by Warner Bros

We Got By, 1975.

Glow, 1975.

Look to the Rainbow, 1977.

All Fly Home, 1980.

This Time, 1981.

Breakin Away, 1981.

Jarreau, 1983.

High Crime, 1984.

Jarreau in London, 1985.

L Is for Lover, 1986.

Sources

Books

Coryell, Julie, and Laura Friedman, Jazz-Rock Fusion: The People, the Music, Dell, 1978.

Periodicals

down beat, March 23, 1978; April 19, 1979; February, 1981; February, 1982.

Essence, August, 1979; February, 1982; March, 1985.

Jet, April 8, 1985; August 18, 1986; November 16, 1987.

New York Times, May 8, 1984.

Rolling Stone, January 25, 1979; October 29, 1981.

Nancy H. Evans

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jarreau, Al." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jarreau, Al." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jarreau-al

"Jarreau, Al." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jarreau-al