Al Jarreau is an artist whose creativity knows no limits. Since the mid-1970’s, this versatile singer has applied his whimsical, rhythmic, one of a kind vocal style – a cross between scatting and lyrical gymnastics - to a wide range of musical genres. His eclectic musical sensibilities have made him the only vocalist in history to earn Grammy Awards in jazz, pop and R&B. After nearly five decades of recording and performing, at an age when many artists are coasting or even retiring, Jarreau continues to take his music to new and different places, artistically and physically. One of the next places he plans to go is the Ohio Theatre for a one night engagement with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Led by conductor Larry Baird, the evening will include a number of Jarreau’s classic tunes – but this time with full orchestral arrangements that will let even the most die-hard fan experience them in a new way.
Since you first began singing you have consistently approached melody and harmony from a fresh perspective, dispensing with externally imosed limitations in order to transform established music into something relevant and new. On your latest album, Al Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest – Live, we see that happening in real time.
Yes. The concept developed when I was invited to come and sing with the Metropole Orchestra. The album is a collection of some of the key performances that came out of my two night engagement with the band at Theater aan de Parade in Den Bosch, Netherlands. They are one of the few orchestras around with strings players that understand classical music, jazz and all the gray areas in between. They are the kind of players who would be just as much at home onstage with Mick Jagger or Stevie Wonder as they are in a big band setting.
The tracks include songs that many of your fans around the world will recognize.
It’s a combination of new pieces like Scootcha-Booty and material from my previous recordings like We’re in This Love Together or Midnight Sun, but all of it has been enhanced and embellished by having the band there. It’s a fresh new listen and that is the tickling part – that people will recognize things they have heard before, but never quite in this way. There are new interpretations – solos that were not on the original recordings. What comes through loud and clear is that you can reinvent and reinvigorate and restore existing music to make it into a completely contemporary experience. This project has been part of my dreamscape for many years.
You’re coming to Columbus next month for an appearance with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. What brings to our corner of the world?
I’m a Buckeye at heart. I spend more time giving concerts in Ohio than I do in any other state – perhaps more time than I spend performing anywhere else in the world. I have a great relationship with the people of Ohio, and it’s great to be near the OSU when I come to Columbus.
What can we look forward to when you are with us in March?
We will do some of the music people have heard me do for years like We Got By and Favorite Things, and few things they have never heard before. All with a fresh perspective like what we did at Metropole.
After almost half a century in the music business, what’s next?
To wake up tomorrow morning and still be a singer would be just fine [laughs]. To still have an audience for this kind of music and this kind of message, that’s a serious dream come true. Before I get out of bed, I am saying thank you. I know how important it is to be thankful. It’s a wonderful thing to have life and to look at all this creation and say thank you. I even say it on stage. Did you say thank you today?
Al Jarreau will appear with the Columbus Symphony at the Ohio Theatre(39 E. State Street) on March 9th. For more information visit columbussymphony.com or call 614-228-8600.