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AL JARREAU,
1940-2017

Al Jarreau, the innovative singer who won seven Grammy Awards for work that fused jazz, soul and pop music, died today at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 76.

His passing will be mentioned in tonight's Grammy Awards telecast.

Jarreau had been recently hospitalized for exhaustion and pneumonia. Posted to his website was the following statement: "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."

A native of Milwaukee, he moved to the West Coast and performed jazz standards and pop songs in the 1960s and ‘70s as part of a duo with Julio Martinez in the Bay Area and L.A. before signing with Reprise—at the age of 35—to record the gently funky We Got By. A year later, he released Glow, split between his own material and interpretations of recent soft-pop songs.

It was his third release, the live 1977 album Look to the Rainbow, that captured Jarreau as a jazz singer intent on holding onto stylistic tradition such as scat while surrounding himself with modern, percussion-heavy R&B and funk that left room for improvisation. Thanks to a seven-minute version of Paul Desmond’s signature tune “Take Five” that expanded his audience, the album went Top 50 and won Jarreau his first Grammy, this time for Best Jazz Vocal.  

While Jarreau continued to put a personal spin on jazz instrumentals such as Chick Corea’s “Spain” and Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” for which he won another Grammy, he crossed over into the mainstream in the early ‘80s  with the hits “We’re in This Love Together” and “Moonlight,” the theme to the Bruce Willis-Cybill Shepherd TV series. He also sang on USA For Africa’s “We are the World.”

Consistently active as a touring performer, he took a break from recordings in the 1990s and had made several contemporary jazz albums this century. A recording of “God Bless the Child”” with Jill Scott and Benson earned him his final Grammy; he is the only singer with wins in the pop, jazz and R&B categories.

He had high-profile pairings with George Benson and George Duke that played the amphitheater circuit in the 2000s and only recently had canceled the eight shows he had scheduled for early this year. He toured Europe with a big band in in October and November.

 

 

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