Hearing fans sing ‘like church’ for Jarreau
BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember that 1970s television show “The Incredible Hulk,” with Bill Bixby as fugitive scientist David Banner?
When Banner got scared or angry, he’d suddenly morph into the Hulk and things would get radical. No matter what was going on in each weekly episode, no matter what Bixby was doing as an actor, the moment that David Banner morphed into the Hulk (played by Lou Ferrigno) was the moment the audience waited for.
Al Jarreau can relate.
Presented by Hawaii Pops
» Where: Hawai’i Convention Center, 1801 Kalakaua Ave.
It’s been almost 33 years since his biggest hit, “We’re in This Love Together,” peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, but whenever and wherever he is performing, the moment he starts singing that tune is the moment the fans are waiting for.
“That’s the song that people are just on pins and needles to hear,” Jarreau agreed cheerfully May 21, calling from his home in Southern California. He sounded as cool and relaxed as ever.
The six-time Grammy award winner,74, said that having people waiting to hear one of your old hits is a great problem to have.
“When you have an audience that sings along on ‘We’re in This Love Together’ and sings along on ‘Mornin’,’ those are moments that no one can take from you,” Jarreau said. “That’s the greatest stuff in the world when people know the music. Something happens in those moments and it’s like church, man.”
“Mornin’” reached No. 23 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1983. Another hit for Jarreau was “Moonlighting,” the theme from the television series starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd; it was on the pop charts in 1987.
The anticipation of hearing those hits has made Jarreau’s Saturday concert with the Hawaii Pops a hot ticket. While reserved seating is officially sold out, general-admission tickets may still be available.
JARREAU’S last show here was with the old Honolulu Symphony in 1999. Matt Catingub, artist director of the Hawaii Pops, was the conductor.
“I owe an apology to all my friends and family in Hawaii,” Jarreau said, sounding sincerely contrite. “I just don’t come enough. I should be there every 18 months, every 36 months — I should be there somewhere doing music with my friends and family in Hawaii, so apologies, and now I return and get to do it and repeat some history and it’s wonderful.”
Jarreau’s ties to Hawaii go deeper than past concerts and his pop-chart hits.
A uniquely local connection is saxophonist Michael Paulo, born and raised in Hawaii, who was one of his musicians in the early 1980s.
Another connection is keyboardist Larry Williams of the California-based band Seawind, originally the Waikiki club band Ox. Williams is backing Jarreau on Saturday.
“Michael (Paulo) was in the band during a really important period for me,” Jarreau said. “The music had arrived, and people were knowing about this guy named Jarreau and a lot of the music had horn stuff on it. Michael Paulo and another guy, (trumpeter) Michael “Patches” Stewart, came and together played a lot of those hot horn licks that were written by Larry Williams and Jerry Hey.” Hey was also a member of Seawind.
“Those guys came along during a really important period, when we were able to go out and play that music in front of audiences and have them realize, ‘Oh, this is for real.’ Michael picked up that horn and played solos that just scared David Sanborn,” Jarreau said. “It was quite something, and they were there during that period that helped to solidify me as an artist who had arrived.”
ALTHOUGH Jarreau’s biggest pop hits and most of his Grammy awards date from the early 1980s, he is by no means an “oldies artist.” He won additional Grammys in 1992 (best R&B vocal performance, male) and 2006 (best traditional R&B vocal performance).
In 2012 he released “Al Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest,” a “live” album distilled from two concerts in the Netherlands.
“It was a dream come true, one of those things that I had always wanted to do, but it was that dream with a cherry on top,” he said. “These guys were jazzers. This orchestra has five upright bass players who could stop and go and play with Chick Corea onstage, but they are classical players, classically trained, who can play jazz as well. (And) 10 string players who the next night are going to go and play with the Holland Symphony Orchestra.
“To have them bring their jazz sensibilities to the record as well as their string (section) playing and their harp player” — he chuckled — “and their timpani player, is just an amazing thing.”
The CD includes a new orchestral arrangement of “We’re in This Love Together.”
Jarreau is looking forward to doing another orchestral album — “Al Jarreau singing some stuff from ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Porgy and Bess,’ so stuff to do,” he said — but his next release will be a memorial album honoring multifaceted musician, composer and producer George Duke, a longtime friend who died in August.
Jarreau had been working on the album just before his call, he said.
“I’m looking at the first copies of the record,” he said. “It’s not in a jacket, not the final pressing of a CD, but it’s the first putting-together of a CD that I can hold in my hand.
“I’ll play it in a while and make sure that we dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s, and yeah! This is a great thing that just happened.”
The album, “My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke,” will be released June 17. Find out more at aljarreau.com.
Jarreau’s friendship with Duke began in the mid-1960s, when he was still singing semiprofessionally and Duke was leading a jazz trio. (A collection of recordings from those gigs, “Live at the Half Note 1965, Volume 1,” is available at www.georgeduke.com.) Jarreau found success later, working with other musicians, but he and Duke were friends for life.
That friendship made Jarreau a natural choice when Concord Records decided to do an album in Duke’s honor.
“My manager (Joe Gordon) and John Burk over at Concord in the fall were saying, ‘Al, you sang with George when his mother was coming to the club and saying, “You’d better get him home right after work; he’s got to play at church in the morning.”‘ That’s a long time ago. And they said, ‘You’d better do a tribute to George, you’d better do that,’ and I agreed.”
“So this is my version of a tribute to George,’ Jarreau said. “It ain’t gonna be everything that George ever did. It’s places where we crossed paths musically — that area of musical thought that George and I shared, those things that were really a shared thumbprint signature, ‘Al and George,’ whether we were playing it on the same stage or not.”
In Hawaii Jarreau might do one or two songs from the upcoming Duke album — along with “We’re in This Love Together,” “Mornin’” and “Moonlighting,” of course — and maybe some of the songs from the “Metropole Orkest” album, rearranged for a performance by a jazz quintet. If things go as planned, there’ll be copies of the album available for sale. Jarreau plans to be available to autograph CDs after the concert.
Concertgoers are welcome to bring older CDs and vinyl albums for autographs, too.
“Call me ‘Jarreau-sic Park,’” he said with a chuckle. “I sign things that are a foot square, (album) covers coming from the 1970s and ’80s. I sign ‘em. Gladly.”
Jarreau mourns the eclipse of physical albums by digital downloads.
“The technologies have brought us some gains, but they’ve caused a loss of some very significant things — and one of them is that with a hard copy you can look at and read liner notes and see pictures of the artist,” he said. “That’s a loss, and I’m afraid that there’s a whole segment of the music-listening culture that is not going to miss it. They’re coming up without it, and it’s kind of OK (for them) that they don’t have it.”