Remembering Al Jarreau, ‘Acrobat of Scat’

BY YVONNE VILLARREAL
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS

Al Jarreau, the legendary jazz artist and seven-time Grammy winner, died on Feb. 12 at age 76.

His death came two days after he announced his retirement from touring and was admitted to the hospital for exhaustion.

Known as the “Acrobat of Scat” for his vocal delivery and admired by fans for his imaginative and improvisational qualities, Jarreau had a career that spanned five decades and 20 albums. His biggest single was “We’re in This Love Together” from 1981.

He was the only Grammy vocalist to win in the jazz, pop and R&B categories.

Started at church
He was born Alwin Lopez-Jarreau in Milwaukee in 1940. His father was a minister, and his mother was a piano teacher. Jarreau began singing in a church choir at age 4 and later counted jazz scat artist Jon Hendricks and ballad singer Johnny Mathis among his greatest influences.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1960 from Wisconsin’s Ripon College, where he performed on weekends with a group called the Indigos. He went on to the University of Iowa, earned a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation. But his call to singing persisted.

By the late ’60s, Jarreau moved to Los Angeles and began to sing in clubs such as the Troubadour and the Bitter West End.

He released his first album, “We Got By,” in 1975 at the age of 35.

Singer and actor
Within two years, he won his first Grammy. He began attracting a wider following with his 1981 album, “Breaking Away,” which included the Top 20 hit “We’re in This Love Together.” The album won Grammy Awards in the jazz and pop vocal categories.

Not one to fit into a mold, Jarreau dabbled with rock and reggae and recorded the theme song for the TV series “Moonlighting” in the’80s.

His 1992 album, “Heaven and Earth,” won a Grammy for best R&B vocal performance, giving the artist Grammys in three categories.

Jarreau stretched his talents in other ways, performing with symphony orchestras and acting on Broadway in 1996 in the role of Teen Angel in “Grease.”

He picked up two more Grammys in 2007 for a recording made with guitarist George Benson, “Givin’ It Up.” He remained an active performer until his death, playing about 50 concerts last year.
Jarreau is survived by his wife, Susan, and son, Ryan.

SHARE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here