Seven-time Grammy Award-winning jazz legend Al Jarreau has music in his bones. He didn’t plan to be a musician. He caught a bug, one he never managed to shift.
Head down in his textbooks a young Jarreau studied tirelessly to be a counsellor and rehabilitation specialist to “help people recover and become stronger” he said.
But as he read, re-read and wrote countless essays and dissertations, floating musical crotchets and quavers danced cartoon-like up the street and into his bedroom window in Milwaukee.
“I heard music on the street, like the Doo-Wop,” said the now 72-year-old. “Other styles of the day seemed to find me. Even the polka tunes coming from the tavern across from my bedroom window. Music was everywhere I went. The music of my church, where my mother and father were both involved. It all just took over.”
Jarreau, who plays at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel’s Events Arena this weekend brought by Dubai-based M Premiere, always enjoyed singing and eventually the draw became too strong to fight.
But today, even after decades of success, platinum-selling albums and priceless memories of sharing stages with stars of eras past including Bette Midler, Jon Hendricks, Johnny Mathis and Ella Fitzgerald, Jarreau insists he has a passion not a profession.
“Find something you would do for free, with no compensation at all,” he says, the most important lesson the music biz has taught him so far. “Something that you would do every day out of love for the activity. Stick with it, and don’t give up and, maybe, if you’re dedicated and blessed, you can turn it into a profession you can thrive in. That has been my blessing, and I never forget to be thankful for that.”
Jarreau’s recording career exploded in 1975 with his debut album We Got By, followed by Glow just a year later. The critics and fans went wild, sales soared and Jarreau became an instant icon.
Success continued throughout the 80s and 90s partly due to his rendition of the theme for television show Moonlighting, catapulting him to households across the US bringing pop sensation status. A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame came next — something he’s not comfortable talking about having cleverly sidestepped any mention of the LA walkway and in 1977 Jarreau embarked on his first world tour.
Almost 35 years later and Jarreau has been on the road again having completed more than 70 shows in 2012.
“I started in the mid-70s,” he said. “The difference now is audiences have more options. More performers, genres, and sources for music.”
Jarreau believes this is a mini-victory for someone like him saying: “It’s great I can attract an audience to dedicate their time to our music. The band and I work to make it a real victory for them [the audience] too. We try to give them a great experience for their time and interest.”
Jarreau has won seven Grammy Awards and is the only singer ever to have won Best Vocalist Grammy Awards across three separate categories — jazz, R’n’B and pop.
“The awards and recognition I have received over the years are a tremendous honour, and I appreciate each one of them. But, it is wonderful to have the music, and to be fortunate to have people who will share it with me, that is what feels better each time.”
Accepting his age by his own admission Jarreau says he “should probably stay home, and relax” but claims the music doesn’t allow it.
“The opportunity to sing for old friends or new friends, like those who will see me perform in Dubai for the first time in my life, that is the best feeling of all. The audience is always my biggest inspiration. We live in tough times, with a lot of challenges in life. If I can give my audience a few hours of simple happiness and good music, and they can escape all the rest for a while to just have some fun, that’s very rewarding.”