Kalamu ya Salaam's information blog

A few weeks ago, I unexpectedly received an email. Catapulted me into an internal realm where the past lives.

Intimate friends can do that: propel you down your personal rabbit hole of memories. Subsequently, a picture of us arrived. Immediately I thought of Al Jarreau (March 12, 1940 – February 12, 2017). Together, we used to listen to him.

Over the years millions have been enthralled by his singing. Music is the most reliable time machine we humans have. Carries us back to people and places we have experienced, and projects us forward into flavors we have yet to taste.

And then I remembered marveling at Al. It was a festival in Florida, a handful of miles from Zora’s home in Eatonville. Brother Jarreau was the featured performer. A sunny summer day, a couple thousand people. Al was onstage literally kicking and high stepping as he sang using that golden flute that was a combination of his physical attributes and his unbridled imagination. I was so enraptured, I didn’t even feel the deep south, east coast heat beaming down on our assembled throng.

Al was from Milwaukee but, on that hot afternoon, he could have worked for NASA. He had the talent to captivate aficionados and to shoot us into inner space with the magic of his musical moments. Ever since I have really loved his unique vocalizations.

There were two Jarreau albums I especially dug: the Grammy-winning Look To The Rainbow (Warner Bros.–1977) and Tenderness (Reprise–1994). The first from early in his career. The second later in his life. Both treasures expertly captured his beautiful feel for improvisation.

A grown-ass man, exuberant, juices flowing, laughing, enjoying himself as much as the audience was reciprocally enjoying him. Mucho years later he somehow re-discovered the spark that lit the torch-light of his talent, which had first burst fully into flame when he was much younger.

You can hear the overflow of joy in the excerpts, especially the rich combination of deep song and deep feeling topped by a wry intelligence and modernist investigations of the nature of our existence (after all, he had a degree in Psychology and a masters in Rehabilitation Counseling; he knew what it meant to be human).

That he chose music as a way to express and share the fruits of his vast understanding of who and what we are, well, perhaps that is the most potent magic of Al Jarreau.

Thank you Al for transporting me, and many, many others, back to younger days.



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