Jarreau, Al(vin), pop-jazz singer; b. Milwaukee, Wise, March. 12, 1940. His voice is somewhat reminiscent of Johnny Mathis or Al Green. In 1965 while working on his Masters degree in psychology at the Univ. of Iowa, he was singing at parties and performing with the Joe Abodeely Trio at the Tender Trap in Cedar Rapids. He sat in at Jim and Tony Sotos’s Celebrity Club in nearby Moline, 111., which led to a recording session with the Abodeely Trio in June at the Sotos’s studio in Rock Island, III. (The session was later issued without Jarreau’s permission and he had it withdrawn.) Even on this early session he is distinctive, fresh and vibrant. After graduation he went to San Francisco, where he worked as a rehabilitation counselor. Jarreau began singing in local clubs, quickly garnering a following with his vocalese technique, ability to imitate instruments, and warm, sometimes even ecstatic performance style. He gained particular attention with his album We Got By (1975). While touring Europe, he recorded in January and February 1977, becoming one of the most popular jazz singers of the day. Other successful albums of this period, include Look to the Rainbow (1977) and All Fly Home (1978).
Jarreau established a larger following by dabbling in soul, MoR and pop; he peaked in 1981 with the U.S. Top 20 single “We’re in this Love Together” and the LP Breakin’ Away. Trouble in Paradise, Jarreau’s follow-up album, yielded “Mornin’,” his biggest U.K. hit until his theme from television’s Moonlighting made the Top Ten in 1987. His audience changed substantially in the mid-1980s when his songs and vocal style became less adventurous. His 1994 album, Tenderness, boasted an all-star line- up, including saxophonists Michael Brecker and David Sanborn, but unfortunately set them to work on distinctly un-swinging songs by The Beatles and Elton John. Jarreau sang jazz again on Jon Hendricks’s version of Freddie the Freeloader” (1993).
2965 (1965); We Got By (1975); Glow (1976); Look to the Rainbow (1977); All Fly Home (1978); This Time (1980); Breakin’ Away (1981); Jarreau (1983); High Crime (1984); Live in London (1985); L Is for Lover (1986); Heart’s Horizon (1988); Heaven and Earth (1992); Tenderness (1994); Best of Al jarreau (1996); TomorrowToday (2000). jon hendricks:Freddie Freeloader (1990).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire