Al Jarreau is undoubtedly one of the most innovative jazz vocalists in the world with nearly 50 years of experience under his belt. And it was his funky fresh style that had the crowd bopping and boogieing at Nathan Phillips Square on Monday evening.
The crowd chattered anxiously waiting to hear one of most uniquely recognizable voices in jazz and R&B. When the seven-time Grammy winner approached the glowing purple backlit stage looking stylish in a crisp white blazer and flat cap, the audience teemed with excitement.
Jarreau’s powerful vocals commanded the stage as he and his band tore through his extensive list of hits. In the first set, classic hits like the catchy "Black and Blues" featured the singer’s bouncy soulful delivery. Slowing the tempo, "I Will Be Here for You" featured an audience lesson of Swahili lyrics, with Jarreau encouraging willing participants to sing along. "Take Five" was a master class in fearless vocal performance, but also a touching dedication to his wife of 48-years, proof positive that Jarreau is still very much in control at any tempo.
His bebop style solo with an African shaker cleansed the palate of the performance and offered a unique highlight to the set list. Supported by flute, sax and cymbals, Jarreau recalled similar numbers performed in his car in 1965 to the amusement of the crowd.
"Boogie-Down" brought a whole new level of energy with its up-tempo swing, concluding with a long and enthusiast standing ovation.
Just when the show seemed to be over, the stage went dark and a beam of light shone down on a smiling Al Jarreau, alone with a microphone. He sang out “Day-O!” to a thrilled audience who threw it right back, “Day-O, Daylight come and we wan’ go home!” Jarreau performed the 1956 Harry Belafonte classic "Banana Boat" to an enthusiastic audience that was glad to get more from the legend.
The 75-year-old Jarreau continues to have fun on his long stage journey, often expressing his amusement with a chuckle or grin. Even with limited mobility, an Al Jarreau performance in 2015 sparkles with the energy and emotion for he has become famous.
On his aging knees, “I didn’t lose anything, I’m just taking a deep bob.”
Jarreau touring schedule continues in Europe later this summer.