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DOWNEY – Al Jarreau knows he can sang — or at least that’s how my mother might phrase it.
At the age of 73, the seven-time Grammy award winner graced the stage of the Downey Civic Theatre last Saturday night, bringing the crowd to its feet with his unique combination of pop, jazz, and rhythm and blues.
One could hardly believe this man won his first Grammy almost 35 years prior as he walked out on stage decked in a white blazer jacket — sleeves rolled up, of course — and his signature backwards flat cap.
While the audience seemed both excited and apprehensive at first, it only took the bass line of Jarreau’s 1983 hit “Boogie Down” to get the party started.
“Well, hello Downey,” said Jarreau with a big grin, waving up at the balcony.
As the five-man band, which included keyboards, drums, guitar, bass, and saxophones, jammed to the classic soul groove, Al used his own instrument.
“Rit-tit-tit-tat-tat-bow-yow,” he scatted while holding a nearby microphone stand.
Although Jarreau’s microphone seemed to be muffled during the song, his talent, and his personality most of all, shined through nonetheless.
In addition to the all-time favorites, Jarreau introduced the audience to some new renditions from his latest live album — Al Jarreau & The Metropole Orkest.
As heads bobbed and shoulders swayed, Jarreau sang “Midnight Sun” and “Scootcha-Booty,” a song he started writing years ago on a Post-it note, but didn’t finish until last year.
“Sometimes it takes me a while, I move kind of slow, but I get there,” he said drawing applause.
After acknowledging his wife Susan, who was born and raised in Downey, Jarreau slowed it down, reminding everyone just how he earned those Grammy awards. With flawless vocals, Jarreau slid into the jazz hit “Take Five.”
Starting off a cappella, Jarreau’s lips moved a mile a minute as he sang — and sometimes hummed and squeaked — the melody to the song he re-imagined in 1977.
During the song, the lady sitting on my right leaned over and whispered, “He’s his own instrument.” I couldn’t agree more — his tones were familiar yet exotic at the same time, forcing everyone to listen to the song as if it were the first time they’d ever heard it.
“There are some songs, if I don’t do them, people will find me in the hotel,” he said with a laugh before launching into perhaps his greatest pop single “We’re In This Love Together.”
It must be said that Jarreau’s band made him better. The five professional musicians behind the man struck just the right balance — knowing when to help the singer and when to back off and let him do his thing.
But before the show could end, they all got to do a little singing of their own as three of the five joined Jarreau up stage to sing a Doo-Wop number that nearly stole the show.
As the piano played, Jarreau took a final bow from the stage, making his way to the lobby where he signed dozens of autographs for eager fans.
I’m sure in their eyes, the living legend proved my mother’s point. Al Jarreau can still sang.
Published: Oct. 17, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 27