Al Jarreau brings his smooth jazz to Beaver Creek Wednesday |

Al Jarreau brings his smooth jazz to Beaver Creek Wednesday

Brenda Himelfarb
Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyAl Jarreau is performing for the first time in Beaver Creek on Dec. 29 at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.

There’s no pigeonholing Al Jarreau. He’s a legend. A singer extraordinaire who has won seven Grammy Awards – three in separate categories, including jazz, pop and rhythm and blues.

Jarreau’s jazz influences are definitely apparent in his delivery, but this master makes each song his own. He has the uncanny ability to mold and craft a piece into any genre.

As Jarreau likes to tell it: “My father was a preacher, my mother the church organist, so there I was in their midst and feeling the sprit. For the first years of my life I heard church music, the national anthem and Christmas carols at school. Eventually I got into do-wop on the street corner and, with other kids, organized a quartet. And that became part of me. This is all the stuff inside of me that I refer to when I interpret a song.”

On Wednesday, a Vilar Center audience will have a chance to see the jazz musician at work. Jarreau will perform at 7:30 p.m.

Jarreau was “smooth jazz” before there was such a genre. He has the ability to embrace a melody that enchants the listener. He twists and turns lyrics and scats – and the audience is mesmerized.

“When I sing, I’m just opening my mouth and putting on the filter and doing some things that think kind of fit together and work together and, wow, I love the spectrum and like to sing broad stuff,” Jarreau said. “For instance, with the sextet, I love to put in a Bach piece. It’s a great lesson for people. Take them on a journey. Let them see some things, visit some places, some different feelings. ‘Take Five’ is one thing and ‘Boogie Down,’ is another. I love the variety and how it keeps me alert and alive. I like an audience who can listen and get beneath the surface a little bit.”

Perhaps it is Maurice Bottomley, of “PopMatters” who best describes Jarreau. “His voice shows absolutely no signs of wear and tear and that in itself is a wonder after so many years in the business. Jarreau is, in the end, simply a stylish vocalist in a world not overly blessed with such creatures. He does have his own sound and, after all, it is what most artists strive for.”

Jarreau grew up next door to a polka parlor, he said during a recent phone interview.

“(I) can even sing you a polka like ‘Weird Al’ Yancovic,” Jarreau said with a laugh. “I soaked a lot of stuff in that was musical. I think I got my acumen from my mother and dad but my total environment was so rich and varied and I was just gobbling it up, absorbing it like a sponge.”

While attending Ripon College in Wisconsin, where he graduated with a bachelors in psychology, Jarreau continued singing for fun with a group called the Indigos. He then attended the University of Iowa to earn his master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation and moved to San Francisco to begin his career as a counselor.

Soon the draw of music began to shape his future. It was when Jarreau began performing at a small jazz club with a trio headed by jazz pianist, George Duke, that he knew, without a doubt, that he would make singing his life’s work.

“For me, the music was just overwhelming,” Jarreau said. “In high school we performed ‘South Pacific’ and ‘Oklahoma.’ I can still sing you the scores of each play. The church songs had a morality and way of behaving that we thought was great.

“But now I was singing Bach and chorals. And then, in my living room, my older siblings were singing be-bop fringe music, Mills Brothers’ songs and the Four Freshman and I was just fascinated. And I heard Ella and Billy Eckstine and Billie Holiday in my living room and all of it just really stuck to my musical heart. So that’s where my singing comes from.”

Brenda Himelfarb is a freelance writer based in Eagle-Vail. E-mail comments about this story to

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