Al Jarreau Was a Jazz ‘Healer’

Thursday, February 16, 2017 Written by 
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“Last night I was in an Al Jarreau mood. Went on YouTube, played a few of his hits and got my groove on. I looked at his photo and thought, "I wonder how he's doing?" I don't know him personally, but I have always been a fan. Then I learned that he died today. Wow! It's amazing how the Spirit World gives us a head's up, often without our knowing. RIP Al, I love you.”  


This was my Facebook post on Feb. 12 after learning (via the Grammys) that Al Jarreau had died that same day. 


The legendary Grammy-winning jazz singer had been hospitalized in Los Angeles for exhaustion.  He was 76.  He was surrounded by family and friends when he passed at 5:30 a.m. his manager, Joe Gordon, told Ebony Magazine.


As the news of Al’s passing settles in, I recall the hours of joy spent playing his music, hearing it on the radio, and the three times I saw him in concert: Berkeley in 1980, Denver in 1989, and Inglewood in 2001.  The last concert, held at the Forum, was a fundraising effort which occurred right after 9/11.  He, along with Stevie Wonder, and many others, brought healing at a time when nothing made sense.  


Al Jarreau won seven Grammys over a 50-year career. His biggest single was 1981's "We're in This Love Together." He was a vocalist on the all-star 1985 track, "We Are the World," and sang the theme to TV's "Moonlighting."


“Tell Me What I Gotta Do,” “So Good,” “Mornin”, “Distracted,” “Teach Me Tonight,” “L is for Lover,” and “We’re In This Love Together” are my personal favorites.  


Nicknamed  “The Scatterologist” and the “Acrobat of Scat,” Al carved out his own unique place in music history.  Not only did he have an unmistakable singing voice, but he did an impression job of imitating various instruments as well.  He did that so well, in fact, that words were not needed.


“My brothers were singing quartet music in the living room when I was four and five years old. They were singing … [scatting]…stuff like that, that’s what I wanted to be like. I wanted to be like my brothers, singing this jazzy music,” Al said in a 2012 interview with the website, All About Jazz.


Al’s talent for scatting is evident on such songs as “Spain (I Can Recall)” and the live edition of “Take Five.”  I would encourage any Millennial music maker looking for someone unique to sample, to search YouTube for these cuts. 


During his celebrated career, Al performed with other jazz legends, such as Miles Davis, George Benson, Joe Sample, David Sanborn, Rick Braun, Vesta Williams and George Duke.  He released more than 20 albums and remained a jazz icon right up until his death.  He announced his retirement from touring and cancelled all 2017 tour dates just days before he passed. 


Aside from his many accolades, the seven-time Grammy winner who won in three categories of jazz, pop and R&B, will be remembered for his dedication to caring for others. A statement on his website read in part:


 "His 2nd priority in life was music. There was no 3rd. His 1st priority, far ahead of the other, was healing or comforting anyone in need. Whether it was emotional pain, or physical discomfort, or any other cause of suffering, he needed to put our minds at ease and our hearts at rest. He needed to see a warm, affirming smile where there had not been one before. Song was just his tool for making that happen."


Al is survived by his wife of 39 years, Susan and son Ryan.  A private funeral is being planned. Details were not known at press time.



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