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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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AL JARREAU

The Very Best of:
An Excellent Adventure

Rhino 8122-79847-4

 

 


1. After All
2. Moonlighting (Theme)
3. Never Givin' Up
4. Roof Garden
5. Spain (I Can Recall)
6. Take Five (Edit)
7. We're in this Love Together
8. Rainbow in Your Eyes
9. Just to be Loved
10. Cold Duck
11. We Got By
12. Boogie Down
13. (Round, Round, Round) Blue Rondo à la Turk
14. Mornin'
15. So Good
16. Excellent Adventure

 

A question that has often arisen on this website is: "How do you distinguish a real jazz singer?" There are so many pretenders around that they cloud the issue by counterfeiting genuine jazz vocals. However, this album supplies some useful hints, as Al Jarreau is a pukka jazz singer (as well as a soul and pop singer). What sets him out from the crowd is his ability to use his voice in the same way that jazz musicians use their instruments. There is plenty of evidence in this compilation that Jarreau can sing like a jazz instrumentalist - notably on the edited version of his live 1977 interpretation of Take Five. Another Brubeck-associated tune - Blue Rondo à la Turk - is further proof of his dexterity. Again and again through this CD, one is struck by his vocal range, adroitness and jazz feeling. Even in the most poppy items, he varies his inflections and really gets inside the songs.

Many Jarreau fans will already have many of these tracks but this generous collection (nearly 70 minutes) makes an excellent introduction to an unsurpassed male singer. The CD omits some songs you might expect - like Trouble in Paradise and Day by Day - but it includes many tracks which have become familiar to us through Al's unique performances. Numbers like After All and the theme from Moonlighting are justifiably popular classics. In fact, Jarreau has always had an ear for catchy songs (many of which he wrote or co-wrote) and his adaptability allows him to tackle many musical genres.

Al's jazz credentials are clear in his recording tunes by such jazzmen as Eddie Harris (Cold Duck) and Chick Corea (Spain - I Can Recall). The former proves that he can sound groovy as well as tender, and the latter shows his facility in vocalese, rattling out words at top speed to match the convoluted melody. You might call it a kind of rapping, devised years before the rappers got hold of it. And note how he opens Roof Garden by using his voice as if it's a piano or saxophone.

This compilation illustrates Jarreau's longevity: spanning the years 1975 to 2004, and the final track is a new recording which demonstrates that he has not lost his deftness. Recommended.

Tony Augarde



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