Over the last 40 years, Al Jarreau has earned a devoted following among jazz fans in the U.S. and across the globe for his scat-inspired delivery, but even after all of those years, the 72-year-old musician’s enthusiasm hasn’t diminished a bit. In fact, Jarreau’s voracious appetite for good music, regardless of genre, has been with him since childhood.
“I was inundated by great stuff from an early age, all the way to the top of my heart and soul,” Jarreau says. “As a kid, I listened to Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, and Sarah Vaughan and all of that. I fell in love with that music, but I also became a big fan of R&B and rock ‘n’ roll. And then along came a vocal group from Paris called Les Double Six, and they stole my heart some more. Then music from Brazil, which just rolled me over backwards.”
Best know for his smooth-groovin’ hit “We’re in This Love Together” and the theme to old Moonlighting television show, Jarreau’s latest effort is Al Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest: Live. Jarreau partnered with acclaimed conductor and arranger Vince Mendoza and Holland’s Metropol Orkest, a 53-piece orchestra, for a two-night engagement at the Theater aan de Parade in Den Bosch, Netherlands. While the Metropole Orkest normally performs classical works, this collaboration leaned more toward the swing that Jarreau loved as a youngster. The album features renditions of such standards as “Spain (I Can Recall)” and “Cold Duck” as well as a sophisticated reworking of “We’re in This Love Together.”
While the album features elaborate orchestral arrangements, Jarreau and his regular quintet keep the material tight and jazzy on stage. As part of the three-day Lowcountry Jazz Fest at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center this week, Jarreau will have musical director Joe Turano on keyboards and sax alongside guitarist John Calderon, drummer Mark Simmons, bassist Chris Walker, and pianist/flautist Larry Williams.
“My band and I have a great chemistry,” he adds. “It’s a great family to be a part of.”
The Lowcountry Jazz Fest features a variety of modern jazz talent. Veteran alto sax player David Sanborn and multi-instrumentalist Brian Culbertson bring their collaborative, smooth-jazz “Dream Tour” to the PAC stage on Fri. Aug. 31 with an opening set from guitarist Matt Marshak. Guitarist Norman Brown, keyboardist Alex Bugnon, and sax players Gerald Albright and Ronnie Laws headline the fest on Sat. Sept. 1. Saxophonist Jessy J will perform a Sunday morning jazz brunch at the nearby Montague Terrace (adjacent to the Coliseum) at 11 a.m. on Sun. Sept. 2. Jarreau and his band headline the final event on Sunday evening.
“I fell in love with the improvisational attitude early on because that’s the way you express what you’re feeling right at that moment,” Jarreau says. “I try to bring that to the table, no matter the event.”