Al Jarreau – All I Got

Al Jarreau
All I Got
(GRP/Verve – 2002)
by Eugene Holley, Jr.

For people under the age of 30, its hard to convey the impact the Grammy winning Al Jarreau had on jazz vocalists when his ’70s masterpiece, Look To The Rainbow, which contained his hit rendition of Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5.” Jarreau’s impossible vocalistics, his percussive, pre hip-hop/human beat box effects and his silky, horn-like singing style slipped through jazz, R&B and fusions categories like, as George Clinton said, “like an eel through seaweed.” Jarreau bridged the innovated Jon Hendricks’s vocalise concept and paved the way for Bobby McFerrin and Take 6.

Though he’s had his share of hits like “Roof Garden” “Mornin” and “Breakin’Away,” Jarreau has never reached the level of artistic success he attained with Look to the Rainbow. Save for the fantastic 1990 album Hearts Horizon, which for some reason was overlooked by everybody, the material Jarreau surrounded himself with, not to mention the “NAC” radio formats he’s forced to cater to, does not reveal his true genius.

With his new CD, All I Got on GRP/Verve Label, Jarreau’s sounsdscape is improved, to some degree. He’s joined by a cadre of top-flight musicians including keyboardists Freddie Ravel, bassist Chris Walker, drummer Jota Morelli and guitarist Ross Bolton. Produced by guitarist Paul Brown, All I Got features Jarreau shadow boxing with lite, radio-rotation-friendly numbers like Roy Jones in his latest fight. The bouncy “Random Act of Love” with Siedah Garrett and the godly grooves of “Feels Like Heaven to Me” and “Lost and Found,” with Joe Cocker,” are the best and the most emotional performances on the record, while Jarreau’s Afro-pulsed scats swing on “Jacaranda Bougainvillea,” which is dedicated to South Africa.

For this writer, Jarreau’s solo tour-de-force rendition of Bobby Troup cut “Route 66,” which Nat “King” Cole made famous, brings out the best in this gifted artist. Simply put, Jarreau is a one-man doo-wop band, with every vocal part in the pocket. Perhaps this track, along with a more acoustic-friendly setting, will show this generation the true heights that Al Jarreau’s artistry can scale.