Review: Jarreau rocks sold-out Waikiki show
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Church was in session on Saturday night and Al Jarreau was the choir master, as the Hawaii Pops closed out the month of May with Jarreau headlining a sold-out concert at the Hawai’i Convention Center.
The Pops sold out the maximum legal capacity of the room; word is they could have sold several hundred more tickets if space had been available.
Jarreau, a six-time Grammy Award-winner, conducted a master class in vocal improvisation, scat singing (using his voice as a musical instrument and singing “nonsense” syllables rather than conventional lyrics) and beat-boxing. He looked like he was having a great time doing it.
The crowd was with him from the opening riffs of “Boogie Down” and sang along on cue throughout the 89-minute set. He’d scat a line and they’d respond as best they could. It was just like church — a very funky and down-home church.
Jarreau opened the show with three songs from the early 1980s. That show-opening high-impact arrangement of “Boogie Down” was followed by a powerful yet beautifully nuanced take on “Mornin’.” The original hit recording of “Mornin'” had a lot of of vocal substance to it back in the ’80s; Jarreau built on that foundation with his improvisations.
Age is always a relative thing; people age at different rates. Jarreau showed his Honolulu audience that him being 74 is nothing but a number. He hit the high notes, held them and let them soar.
Jarreau introduced “Double Face,” a song he recorded in 2011 as a guest of Brazilian-born jazz-fusion keyboardist Eumir Deodato, as “new music, and (played) on the radio too, and not (played only) at 4 a.m.” Yes, although Jarreau’s biggest pop hits to date date from the 1980s, he is certainly not an oldies act.
And, yes, “We’re In This Love Together,” his biggest pop chart hit, was a glorious moment for all the lucky couples in the audience. It was also another marvelous demonstration of Jarreau’s vocal range and his skill at scatting and vocal improv.
THE SHOW-STOPPER in that respect came with Jarreau’s extended mind-bending interpretation of “Take Five.” The song is known to many pop music fans as a “cool jazz” instrumental by Dave Brubeck, but Jarreau has been doing a tour de force vocal version of it for years. Jarreau’s “Take Five” was a show unto itself that made excellent use of the voices of his musicians as well.
Of course it was no surprise that his quintet was solid and versatile. Keyboardist Larry Williams switched over to a flute rather than resort to a music file on “Mornin'” and the song was much the better for it (Yes, Williams is the Larry Williams of Seawind, the band previously known as Ox, that jelled here in Hawaii in the mid-1970s).
Guitarist John Calderon joined Jarreau down front as a featured musician on a soft acoustic number then stepped back, swapped his acoustic instrument for an electric guitar and pitched on a full-funk arrangement of “Cold Duck.”
Bassist Chris Walker was the featured vocalist in another segment; what a marvelous voice he has!
Calderon, Walker, and keyboardist/musical director Joe Turano joined Jarreau to form a four-man song-and-dance team down front while drummer Mark Simmons added another voice to the arrangement.
Jazz, funk, pop, improv. Jarreau and his musicians did it all — and did it very very well. Attentive listeners also caught his references to Jerry Lee Lewis and Sly & The Family Stone.
Jarreau said during the show and again afterwards backstage that he’d like to come back every year. No question about it, he’ll certainly be welcome.
THE SHOW was also noteworthy for the work of the Hawaii Pops Jazz Orchestra — in essence, the Hawaii Pops without the strings. Hawaii Pops Artistic Director Matt Catingub led the group through an eclectic seven-song program that included big band/jazz arrangements of songs popularized by Ray Charles (“I Can’t Stop Loving You”), Count Basie (“Shiny Stockings”) and Duke Ellington (“Things Ain’t The Way They Used To Be”).
Catingub presided in his usual casual but competent style. Yes, the man has quiet charisma as well as being a multi-faceted performer.
Drummer Darryl Pellegrini was featured on a rock-the-rafters rendition of “You’re Driving Me Crazy.” Zanuck Kapala Lindsey (electric guitar) and Steve Jones (electric bass) were the most prominent players on Catingub’s arrangement of “Run For Cover.”
Catingub and his Pops Jazz Orchestra are ready to be headliners.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.