Al Jarreau

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Al Jarreau at his performance on January 16, 1981 in Düsseldorf
Al Jarreau and band in 2006

Al Jarreau , actually Alwyn Lopez Jarreau (* 12. March 1940 in Milwaukee , Wisconsin ; † 12. February 2017 in Los Angeles , California ) was an American jazz - pop - and rhythm-and-blues - singer and songwriter .

Live and act

Jarreau was the fifth of six children. The family was very poor and was characterized by great musicality. Jarreau sang his first solo in church at the age of four. His New Orleans father, Emile Alphonse, was a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church but worked at the AO Smith munitions factory during World War II , so Jarreau never heard his father preach in church, only at home. His mother, Pearl Walker, was a church organist . Al Jarreau discovered improvisation as a child through his brothers when he sang with them at home.

Studies and time as a social worker

In his youth, he began performing in bars in his hometown. In one of them he got to know the Hungarian jazz pianist Laszlo Les Czimber (known as "Tarzan"), who fled from Budapest to Milwaukee in 1956 after the popular uprising ; this taught him how to work out songs. From 1958 to 1962 Jarreau studied psychology at Ripon College in Wisconsin and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts . During his studies, he performed locally on the weekends with a group of four called The Indigos. He then completed a master's degree (Master's Degree in Vocational Rehabilitation) at the University of Iowa .

In 1964, after six months of service in the Army Reserve, he went to San Francisco . There he led a kind of double life : three times a week he performed in a club with a trio that was led by the then unknown George Duke . During the day, he worked as a rehabilitation worker at the California Division and Rehabilitation Center, helping people with intellectual or physical disabilities integrate into working life. In 1965 he sang as a student on weekends with the Joe Abodeely Trio at The Tender Trap, a club in Cedar Rapids. There he met the saxophonist J. R. Monterose , who taught him to sing saxophone lines or to scatten . A live performance was recorded and later appeared on the Bainbridge label as a record under the title 1965 - Al Jarreau (also released under The Masquerade Is Over or JR Monterose - Live at the Tender Trap ); the album contains such well-known standards as Sophisticated Lady , My Favorite Things , Come Rain or Shine and One Note Samba .

With the Brazilian guitarist Julio Martinez, whom he met in 1968, Jarreau performed as a duo at Gatsby's in Sausalito . During this time he also discovered his love for bossa nova and developed his characteristic, instrumental-inspired singing style. He described the job of social worker as his dream job because he always wanted to help other people in some way. In 1969, however, he decided entirely for music and quit his job because the double burden was too strenuous in the long run.


Al Jarreau 1986 in Berlin
Al Jarreau at the North Sea Jazz Festival 2006 in the Netherlands

In 1975 Al Jarreau appeared in the opening act for jazz pianist Les McCann at the Troubadour Club in Hollywood . During a subsequent appearance at the Bla Bla Cafe, he was discovered by a talent scout from the Warner Music Group and signed his first record deal . Shortly afterwards his first record was released by Warner, We Got By. At that time he was already 35 years old. He then performed in clubs in Hamburg for six months. There he started his international career. In 1976 his second album, Glow, came out. In 1977, excerpts from the European tour were also pressed onto the record Look to the Rainbow . The live version of Dave Brubeck's classic Take Five made him famous in one fell swoop. He received the German record award for young artists. In the USA, too, his fame and popularity grew. In the same year he received the Grammy for "Best Jazz Vocal". In 1978 he won a second Grammy for All Fly Home in the category "Best Jazz Vocal".

This Time was released in 1980 . Breakin 'Away followed in 1981 with the breakneck song (Round, Round, Round) Blue Rondo à la Turk by Dave Brubeck, which won him his third Grammy for “Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Male” and the fourth for “Best Male Pop Vocal” Performance ”. The albums Jarreau and High Crime were released in 1983 and 1984 . In 1985, Live in London was recorded live in front of an audience at Wembley Arena in London . He also sang the world hit We Are the World, produced by Quincy Jones , with other well-known artists for the USA for Africa project of Afrika-Welthungerhilfe.

L Is for Lover was released in 1986 . In 1987 Jarreau set the theme song for the American television series The Model and the Snoop with Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis in the lead roles and wrote the lyrics to the music of Lee Holdridge himself . Heart's Horizon was released in 1988 . In 1992 Jarreau got his fifth Grammy for his album Heaven and Earth for the "Best Male R&B Vocal Performance". In 1994 Tenderness was recorded live on a small stage in Los Angeles, produced by Marcus Miller , in front of almost 250 spectators. 1996 was followed by a tour break, during which he played the role of Teen Angel for three months on Broadway in New York in the musical Grease . TV guest appearances in the American series New York Undercover and A Touch of Heaven also followed . Best of Al Jarreau was also released , a compilation of his most famous hits.

In the following years there were no further releases, since Jarreau separated from his long-standing record company (Warner Brothers). He continued to tour around the globe. In 2000, his album Tomorrow Today was released on the new record company Verve . All I Got was released in 2002 . With Accentuate the Positive in 2004, Jarreau kept a long-standing promise to finally release a jazz album that he recorded with a trio. In 2006 he released a full album called Givin 'It Up with jazz guitarist and singer George Benson . In 2007 he won his sixth Grammy for the piece from the album God Bless the Child in the category "Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance".

At the end of January 2017, Jarreau canceled a planned jazz cruise due to weakness and shortness of breath and had to receive medical treatment. From the hospital on February 8, 2017, he announced on his website that he had to end his live career. Four days later he died there with his family. In 2010, the then 70-year-old received intensive care because of life-threatening breathing problems .


Joachim-Ernst Berendt describes Jarreau's voice as follows:

“Jarreau - singing, gurgling, clicking his tongue, moaning, screaming, fluttering, whispering, sighing, rattling - has an arsenal of vocal possibilities that cannot be compared to any other male singer. Jarreau is an instrumentalist of the voice, his music comes from instrumental phrases. His throat really brings out an entire orchestra: drums and saxophones, trumpets and flutes, congas and basses - but all from the mouth of a single man, from the deepest bass to the highest harmonics, as if that man were over a dozen or more different male or female female voices. The most striking is Al Jarreau's flute part. "

- Joachim-Ernst Berendt: The ritual from the throat. In: Jazz Forum. No. 49, 5/1977, p. 35.

Paul Desmond's classic Take Five , which Al Jarreau covered on his album Look to the Rainbow , is a good example of his art of imitation. Also as a real tongue twister on the breakin 'away album Blue Rondo a la Turk or Chick Coreas Spain - I Can Recall (to be found on the album This Time ).

Musical influences

Al Jarreau was shaped by jazz from childhood. It was the music that was played and heard in the Jarreau house. On the radio Al listened to jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald , Jon Hendricks , Dizzy Gillespie , Illinois Jacquet and Nat King Cole .

Singing fast, instrumental melodies in such a way that he can also convey the message and meaning of the song, he learned all of this from Jon Hendricks. Musically he tried to find his own voice between Jon Hendricks and Johnny Mathis . Lyrically, however, he was influenced by Joni Mitchell , the Beatles , Marilyn Allen Bergman and Bob Dylan .

Al Jarreau was influenced by scat singing and bossa nova and many other musical styles. He said himself:

"So I'm really a product of a lot of different music. The whole American scene was an influence as a part of my past, but probably the jazz stuff was the most important. "

- Sandra Cooper: Never giving up. In: Jazz Forum. No. 71, 3/1981, p. 43.

Prizes and awards

In 2016 Al Jarreau was awarded the Frankfurt Music Prize.

Hollywood Walk of Fame

In 2001 he was one of the best singers of his generation and received a gold star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.

Grammy Award Awards

  • 1978 - Best vocal performance - Jazz, Look to the Rainbow.
  • 1979 - Best vocal performance - Jazz, All Fly Home.
  • 1981 - Best recording for children - In Harmony. A Sesame Street Record. Together with other artists.
  • 1982 Best Male Vocal Performance - Pop, Breakin 'Away.
    • Best Male Vocal Performance - Jazz, (Round, Round, Round) Blue Rondo a La Turk.
  • 1993 - Best Male Vocal Performance - Rhythm and Blues, Heaven and Earth.
  • 2007 - Best Traditional Vocal Performance - Rhythm and Blues, God Bless the Child. With George Benson and Jill Scott .

To this day (as of 2017) he is the only artist who has received Grammy Awards in these three different genres of music : Jazz, Pop and Rhythm & Blues.



year title Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChart placements
(Year, title, rankings, weeks, awards, notes)
1976 Glow DE41 (2 weeks)
- - - US132 (11 weeks)
1977 Look to the Rainbow: Live in Europe - - - - US49

(15 weeks)US
1978 All Fly Home - - - - US78 (28 weeks)
1980 This time - - - - US27

(35 weeks)US
1981 Breakin 'Away - - - UK60 (8 weeks)

(103 weeks)US
1983 Jarreau DE25 (20 weeks)
- - UK39 (18 weeks)

(43 weeks)US
1984 High crime DE42 (11 weeks)
- CH27 (1 week)
UK81 (1 week)
US49 (35 weeks)
1985 In London DE58 (2 weeks)
- - - US125 (9 weeks)
was added in November 1984.
in the Wembley Arena
1986 L is for lover DE7 (28 weeks)
AT10 (18 weeks)
CH13 (9 weeks)
UK45 (10 weeks)

(28 weeks)US
1989 Heart's Horizon DE33 (16 weeks)
- - - US75

(23 weeks)US
1992 Heaven and Earth DE59 (7 weeks)
AT38 (1 week)
CH38 (2 weeks)
- US105 (9 weeks)
1994 Tenderness DE76 (8 weeks)
- - - US114 (8 weeks)
2000 Tomorrow Today DE28

(12 weeks)DE
- CH76 (2 weeks)
- US137 (6 weeks)
2002 All I got DE48 (5 weeks)
- - - US137 (1 week)
2004 Accentuate the Positive DE88 (1 week)
AT63 (3 weeks)
CH91 (1 week)
- -
2006 Givin 'It Up DE59 (5 weeks)
AT30 (5 weeks)
- - US58 (7 weeks)
2014 My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke DE84 (1 week)
- - - US69 (1 week)

gray hatching : no chart data available for this year

More albums

  • 1965: 1965 Al Jarreau
  • 1975: We Got By
  • 1978: All Fly Home
  • 1979: Lonely Town, Lonely Street
  • 1979: Call Me
  • 1984: Does Withers
  • 1985: Replay of Al Jarreau
  • 1984: Al Jarreau Presents
  • 1988: Manifesto
  • 1988: Soul Man (with Lou Rawls )
  • 1990: Live
  • 1997: Lou Harrison: A Portrait ( Lou Harrison feat. Al Jarreau, California Symphony and Barry Jekowsky)
  • 1998: Tribute to Bill Withers
  • 2001: Let's Stay Together
  • 2005: Fire and Rain
  • 2008: Here I Am
  • 2008: Christmas
  • 2009: Al Jarreau Sings Bill Withers
  • 2010: Everybody Is a Star "Live in Tokyo" (with Miki Howard, Marcus Miller , David Sanborn )
  • 2011: Live at the Half / Note 1995 Volume 1 (with The George Duke Trio )
  • 2012: Al Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest Live (Al Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest conducted by Vince Mendoza )


year title Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChart placements
(Year, title, rankings, weeks, awards, notes)
1996 Best of Al Jarreau DE91 (1 week)
- - - -

More compilations

  • 1978: Al Jarreau Collection (2 LPs)
  • 1980: Best Of
  • 1983: The Masquerade Is Over
  • 1983: Ain't No Sunshine
  • 1984: Spirits & Feelings
  • 1985: You
  • 1992: A Salute to Bill Withers: The Originals
  • 1994: Spotlight on Al Jarreau
  • 1995: Living for You
  • 1996: Al Jarreau
  • 1996: Lean on Me
  • 1997: Kings of Soul
  • 1998: Love & Happiness
  • 1998: improvisations
  • 1998: The Masters
  • 1999: My Favorite Things
  • 1999: Ain't No Sunshine
  • 2000: Gold Collection
  • 2000: Al Jarreau: Magic Collection
  • 2000: Golden Legends
  • 2000: Come Rain or Shine
  • 2000: Early Gold and New Spins
  • 2001: This One's for You - Al Jarreau Sings Bill Withers
  • 2001: Expressions
  • 2002: Still in Love with You
  • 2002: Free Spirit
  • 2002: One Note Samba
  • 2002: Sunshine
  • 2003: Al Jarreau
  • 2003: Lean on Me
  • 2003: My Favorite Things
  • 2003: Members Edition
  • 2003: Best of Al Jarreau
  • 2004: Kissing My Love
  • 2004: Al and Lou (with Lou Rawls )
  • 2004: Teach Me Tonight
  • 2004: Master Classics
  • 2005: The Great Al Jarreau
  • 2005: My Favorite Things
  • 2005: R&B Soul
  • 2006: The Collection
  • 2006: Most Famous Hits: The Album
  • 2007: Al Jarreau / Dionne Warwick Live (with Dionne Warwick ) (2 CDs)
  • 2007: R&B Soul: Live
  • 2008: Love Songs
  • 2009: The Very Best Of: An Excellent Adventure
  • 2011: Original Album Series (box with 5 CDs)
  • 2012: Lean on Me & Other Favorites
  • 2012: Early Cover Years
  • 2013: The Ultimate Doubles


year title
Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChart placements
(Year, title, , Placements, weeks, awards, comments)
1981 We're in This Love Together - - - UK55 (4 weeks)
US15 (24 weeks)
Breakin 'Away - - - - US43 (10 weeks)
1982 Teach me tonight - - - - US70 (7 weeks)
1983 Mornin ' - - - UK28 (6 weeks)
US21 (15 weeks)
Boogie Down - - - UK63 (4 weeks)
US77 (6 weeks)
Trouble in Paradise - - - UK36 (6 weeks)
US63 (7 weeks)
1984 After all - - - - US69 (9 weeks)
1985 Day by day - - - UK53 (4 weeks)
Shakatak with Al Jarreau
1986 Tell Me What I Gotta Do - - - UK98 (2 weeks)
1987 Moonlighting theme - - - UK8 (8 weeks)
US23 (13 weeks)
Title song of the series The Model and the Sniffer

More singles

  • 1975: Rainbow in Your Eyes
  • 1976: Your Song
  • 1976: Fire and Rain
  • 1977: Take Five
  • 1977: Look to the Rainbow - Live in Europe (EP)
  • 1978: Thinkin 'About It Too
  • 1980: Never Givin 'Up
  • 1980: One Good Turn
  • 1980: Gimme What You Got
  • 1980: Distracted
  • 1981: Roof Garden
  • 1981: Easy
  • 1981: Closer to Your Love
  • 1982: Your Precious Love (with Randy Crawford and Yellowjackets )
  • 1982: Our Love
  • 1982: And God Bless Us All… Jarreau
  • 1983: Love Is Waiting
  • 1983: Black and Blues
  • 1984: Let's Pretend
  • 1984: Raging Waters
  • 1986: The Music of Goodbye (with Melissa Manchester , from the film Out of Africa )
  • 1986: Since I Fell for You
  • 1986: Real Tight
  • 1986: Give a Little More Lovin '
  • 1986: L Is For Lover '
  • 1986: Says
  • 1988: I Must Have Been a Fool
  • 1988: All or Nothing at All
  • 1988: So Good
  • 1988: All of My Love
  • 1992: Blue Angel
  • 1992: Heaven and Earth
  • 1992: Superfine Love
  • 1992: It's Not Hard to Love You
  • 1993: What You Do to Me
  • 1994: Tenderness
  • 1996: Compared to What
  • 1997: Smile (with Gregor Prächt )
  • 2000: Tomorrow Today
  • 2000: In My Music (with Phife Dawg )
  • 2002: Lost and Found (with Joe Cocker )

Awards for music sales

Golden record

  • NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands
    • 1982: for the album Breakin 'Away

Note: Awards in countries from the chart tables or chart boxes can be found in these.

Country / Region Gold record icon.svg gold Platinum record icon.svg platinum Sales swell
Awards for music sales
(country / region, awards, sales, sources)
Germany (BVMI) Germany (BVMI) Gold record icon.svg gold1 0! P- 150,000
Netherlands (NVPI) Netherlands (NVPI) Gold record icon.svg gold1 0! P- 50,000
United States (RIAA) United States (RIAA) Gold record icon.svg 4 × gold4th Platinum record icon.svg 2 × platinum2 4,000,000
All in all Gold record icon.svg 6 × gold6th Platinum record icon.svg 2 × platinum2

Web links

Commons : Al Jarreau  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

supporting documents

  1. Al Jarreau died at the age of 76. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , February 12, 2017, accessed on February 12, 2017.
  2. a b Al Jarreau has to end his live career. At: February 8, 2017.
  3. Al Jarreau ends live career. ( Memento from February 11, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) At: February 9, 2017.
  4. a b c Chart sources: DE AT CH UK US
  5. Music Sales Awards: US