Grammy-win­ning jazz singer Al Jar­reau dies at 76

Cape Breton Post - - IN MEMORIAM - BY LIND­SEY BAHR LOS AN­GE­LES

Grammy-win­ning jazz singer Al Jar­reau, who tran­scended gen­res over a 50-year ca­reer, died at a Los An­ge­les hos­pi­tal Sun­day, just days af­ter an­nounc­ing his re­tire­ment from tour­ing be­cause of ex­haus­tion, his man­ager Joe Gor­don con­firmed.

His of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count says he died sur­rounded by his wife, son and a few other fam­ily mem­bers and friends. He was 76.

Jar­reau was hos­pi­tal­ized ear­lier in the week and was said to have been im­prov­ing slowly. The cause of his death was not re­vealed, but he had ex­pe­ri­enced a num­ber of res­pi­ra­tory and cardiac is­sues in re­cent years.

The Mil­wau­kee na­tive won seven Gram­mys over the course of his half-cen­tury in mu­sic. His big­gest sin­gle was 1981’s “We’re in This Love To­gether” from the al­bum “Breakin’ Away.” Jar­reau was also a vo­cal­ist on the al­ls­tar 1985 track, “We Are the World,” and sang the theme to TV’s “Moon­light­ing.”

“We feel very for­tu­nate to have worked with Al, one of the most dis­tinc­tive and ex­tra­or­di­nary vo­cal­ists in the mu­sic,” said Con­cord Records Pres­i­dent John Burk in a state­ment. “He was truly a force of na­ture and a beau­ti­ful hu­man be­ing that will be fondly re­mem­bered and deeply missed by us all.”

Jar­reau is one of the few artists to have won Gram­mys in three sep­a­rate cat­e­gories – jazz, pop and R&B. Time Mag­a­zine once called him the “great­est jazz singer alive.”

News of Jar­reau’s death came as the Grammy Awards were kick­ing off in Los An­ge­les.

“He was re­ally one of the most cre­ative vo­cal­ists who ever lived,” jazz singer Tier­ney Sut­ton told The Associated Press on the red car­pet. “His voice was like an in­stru­ment.”

Sut­ton col­lab­o­rated with Jar­reau on the Joni Mitchell trib­ute al­bum “Af­ter Blue” from 2013.

“Al Jar­reau was in­cred­i­ble,” Jill Scott told the AP. “He was one of the most awe­some, strange per­form­ers I ever met – and I mean strange in the best way. He was all about el­e­gance, whether it was drink­ing a cup of tea or say­ing good morn­ing.”

Scott, an R&B singer, recorded with Jar­reau and Ge­orge Ben­son in 2006 on “God Bless the Child.”

Trib­utes poured in on so­cial me­dia in re­mem­brance of Jar­reau as well. Di­rec­tor Ava DuVer­nay tweeted that her mom used to play Jar­reau’s vinyl and that his voice made her happy.

Ac­tress Oc­tavia Spencer wrote that Jar­reau “had a mel­liflu­ous voice. Sooth­ing. Beau­ti­ful.”

Singer Chaka Khan tweeted that he was an “un­ri­valed im­pro­vi­sa­tional ge­nius.”

In a 2014 in­ter­view with The Ari­zona Repub­lic, Jar­reau rel­ished in his cross­over ten­den­cies.

“I grew up in Mil­wau­kee, and I took it all in. I want it all. Don’t cut me off at the pass and say I can’t lis­ten to Muddy Wa­ters be­cause I’m a jazzer. Or I can’t lis­ten to Garth Brooks be­cause I’m a jazzer. Get out of here,” he said.

Mu­sic wasn’t al­ways Jar­reau’s fo­cus, how­ever – he didn’t even record his first al­bum un­til he was 35. Born to a min­is­ter fa­ther and a mother who played the pi­ano in church, Jar­reau sang from an early age, but he was also an ath­lete who earned a master’s in vo­cal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and started his ca­reer as a coun­sel­lor in San Fran­cisco, play­ing jazz on the side.

But he couldn’t ig­nore his pas­sion for per­for­mance and even­tu­ally gave up his first ca­reer to do mu­sic full time.

AP PHOTO

In this Sept. 27, 2015, file photo, Al Jar­reau per­forms at the Rock in Rio mu­sic fes­ti­val in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Jar­reau died in a Los An­ge­les hos­pi­tal Sun­day, ac­cord­ing to his of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count and web­site.

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