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Category Archive: ‘Wednesday Rock Blogging’

Al Jarreau, R.I.P.

When thinking about Al Jarreau, who died in Los Angeles on Sunday at age 76, one word comes insistently to mind: Smooth.

Much like his longtime friend and kindred spirit George Duke, who died in August 2013, Jarreau owned that free-flowing and often breezy subgenre somewhat derisively known as “smooth jazz.” In reality, it was a cross-pollination of jazz with funk, pop and R&B; that his voice helped establish in the ’70s and ’80s. From the nimble, rounded style that allowed him to glide from note to note in his biggest hit “We’re in This Love Together” to the feeling evoked by the sound of his name itself, Jarreau became synonymous with a bright sort of cool that soared beyond jazz’s often sharp corners.

Also like Duke — who counted Frank Zappa and Miles Davis among his collaborators — Jarreau’s 50-year career defied such simple categorization. A Midwestern native, Jarreau cut his teeth at Bay Area clubs like the Half Note and Gatsby’s before moving to Los Angeles, where he appeared on the city’s club and talk-show circuit.

In the early ’70s, when his career began to take off, Jarreau earned comparisons to jazz greats such as Billy Eckstein, but his breakout 1975 album “We Got By” could evoke soul great Bill Withers, most notably on the album’s bawdy and bluesy title track, in which Jarreau was backed by subtle strings and keyboards. From the same recording, “You Don’t See Me” offered a showcase for Jarreau’s acrobatic scat vocals playing off a spare funk backdrop.

The subsequent live double-album “Look to the Rainbow,” released in 1977, offered a similarly fierce display of vocal invention. His percolating interpretation of Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” — a song most commonly associated with Dave Brubeck — is a rapid-fire tour-de-force as Jarreau breathlessly emulates three or four different instruments over the course of seven and a half propulsive, improvisation-rich minutes. Jarreau eventually came to be synonymous with a seeming imperviousness to rough edges, but here, it certainly wasn’t for want of stretching himself in search of them. “Look to the Rainbow” also earned Jarreau his first Grammy for jazz vocal performance.

Posted by on Feb 15, 2017 in Wednesday Rock Blogging | 0 comments

George Michael

This year won’t be over soon enough for music legends!

George Michael’s ‘Faith’ won the Grammy of Album of the Year in 1989, sold over 100 million albums world-wide (only 24 artists/bands have done that) and had eight #1 hits on Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.  This is one of his best live performances on Youtube – can you imagine if he would  have toured with Queen, a la Adam Lambert:

The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness was an open-air concert held on Easter Monday, 20 April 1992 at London’s Wembley Stadium, for an audience of 72.000. The concert was produced for television by Ray Burdis and broadcast live on television and radio to 76 countries around the world. The concert was a tribute to the life of the late Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, with all proceeds going to AIDS research. The show marked bassist John Deacon’s final concert with Queen (save one live appearance with Brian May, Roger Taylor and Elton John in 1997). The profits from the concert were used to launch The Mercury Phoenix Trust AIDS charity organisation. The concert began with short sets from bands that were influenced by the music of Queen (including many hard rock and heavy metal bands), including Metallica, Extreme (playing a Queen medley), Def Leppard (who brought Brian May onstage for a faithful version of “Now I’m Here”), and Guns N’ Roses. Between bands, several video clips honouring Freddie Mercury were shown, while the roadies changed the stage for the following act’s performance. The second half of the concert featured the three remaining Queen members – John Deacon (on bass), Brian May (on guitar) and Roger Taylor (on drums) – along with guest singers and guitarists, including Elton John, Roger Daltrey (The Who), Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), David Bowie, Mick Ronson (Spiders from Mars), James Hetfield (Metallica), George Michael, Seal, Paul Young, Annie Lennox, Lisa Stansfield, Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Joe Elliott and Phil Collen (Def Leppard), Axl Rose and Slash (Guns N’ Roses), Liza Minnelli, and others. U2 dedicated a live performance via satellite from Tacoma, WA of “Until the End of the World” to Mercury.

Posted by on Dec 28, 2016 in Wednesday Rock Blogging | 1 comment