Al Jarreau – Glow (1976)

 

Al Jarreau – Glow
1976 Reprise MS2248
This reissue, late-80’s German CD pressing

There has been another round of recent deaths of talented people in the arts, and I might be tempted to print another list here or to work up a bunch of “tribute” posts on this blog.  But my last post here was a bit ‘heavy’ and I thought I would change things up again for something more upbeat and life-affirming.  If you are the kind of person who sees the tag “vocal jazz” and are about to skip this post, please reconsider.  Many of the best jazz vocalists use their instrument to compliment an ensemble rather than dominate it, and the early Al Jarreau records fall into that camp.  Anyone who only knows Jarreau from his slicker, pop-oriented records from the 1980’s might even be taken aback but just how extremely funky his earlier work could be, yet he was always attuned to popular but soulful melodies that were ripe for improvisational riffing.  Perhaps the choice of compositions by white singer-songwriters or rockers might elicit an assertion that Jarreau was always interested in being a “crossover artist”.  But those composers – Leon Russell, Elton John/Bernie Taupin, James Taylor – are all ‘honorary brothers’ if only for the amount of times notable artists in soul music have recorded their tunes.  In fact another straight soul interpretation of these songs would hardly merit much attention here, but these are far from straight soul:  Al Jarreau delightfully jazz-funkifies them in what can often sound like the results of a genomic experiment combining the DNA of Al Green with Shooby Taylor.   The record also covers Água de Beber, the Tom Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes-penned Bossa Nova standard.  Jarreau’s prowess at vocalese makes Brazilian music a natural place to turn for his inspiration, and although he starts with the English lyrics by Norman Gimbel, he doesn’t stick to them for long.   His Portuguese enunciation wasn’t too shabby either.  Sly Stone’s “Somebody’s Watching You” makes an appearance near the end of the record and does not fail to fascinate.  I should mention that Jarreau’s  own compositions are also very high quality stuff.  “Have You Seen The Child” is amazingly funky and could be a gospel standard.  I particularly like “Milwaukee”, an homage to his hometown from the point of view of somebody who is a long way from home.

I searched for live video footage of any permutation of the lineups on this album to share with you, and came up empty-handed.  There is, however, an entire concert from German TV in 1976 on YouTube, from a tour where the only holdover from this album is electric pianist Tom Canning.  If you are weary of my words just listen to their variation on Dave Brubeck’s iconic “Take Five” here:

Earlier, I described Jarreau’s pop output as “slicker”.  But while his early albums were certainly funky as hell, they were plenty slick too.  On top of a core band that features the aforementioned Tom Canning on electric keys, guitarist Larry Carlton, and drummer Joe Correro, the lineup for much of “Glow” features many legendary session players – Wilton Federer (The Crusaders), Larry Nash (L.A. Express), Joe Sample (both The Crusaders and the L.A. Express plus more credits than I can list here), percussionist and composer Ralph McDonald (who seemingly-infinite credits include upwards of 600 LPs spanning Harry Belafonte to Hall & Oates, Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack), and the ubiquitous bassist Willie Weeks (or as I like to say, “Willie fucking Weeks!”).  Can we just play “6 Degrees of Willie Weeks” for a moment?  Willie played bass on Donny Hathaway’s legendary 1972 live album, which has a rousing version of Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend”, one of her many compositions that another person made into a huge hit — in this case, James Taylor on his 1971 album “Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon”.  That tune would eventually become a standard for black gospel music as well  (in which the friend you’ve got is, implicitly, Jesus).  I have no factual basis whatsoever for saying this but in the Flabbergasted Vibes tradition of spinning apocryphal yarns, I like to imagine Willie Weeks, Ralph McDonald and Al Jarreau messing around in rehearsals when either Weeks, McDonald or both simultaneously make a reference to that amazing Hathaway album and they suggest to Al that maybe he should try an arrangement of “Fire & Rain.”

In the U.S. right now, this weekend is a holiday that traditionally marks the beginning of the summer season.  I expect there is going to be a lot of foolishness with people wrapping themselves in the flag and yelling about the “freedom” to choose between Budweiser and Miller Lite while they contract an incurable disease.  Let me end this post by giving some advice that begins with an infamous cliché:  I’m not a doctor, but….  just stay home and listen to music this weekend, okay?  (This German CD pressing, incidentally, has amazing sonic characteristics.  Play it loud!)

A1 Rainbow In Your Eyes 3:04

Vocal arrangement – Nick DeCaro
Bass – Wilton Felder
Percussion – Steve Forman
Strings, Synthesizer– Larry Nash
Written-By – Leon Russell

A2 Your Song 5:37

Bass – Willie Weeks
Acoustic piano – Joe Sample
Written by Elton John-Bernie Taupin

A3 Agua De Beber 3:47

Bass – Wilton Felder
Percussion – Steve Forman
Written-By – Jobim, Gimbel, DeMoraes

A4 Have You Seen The Child 3:52

Bass – Wilton Felder
Tambourine – Steve Forman
Written-By – Al Jarreau

A5 Hold On Me 1:52

Written-By – Al Jarreau

B1 Fire And Rain 4:45

Bass – Willie Weeks
Percussion – Ralph MacDonald
Piano – Joe Sample
Written-By – James Taylor

B2 Somebody’s Watching You 3:53

Bass – Willie Weeks
Percussion – Ralph MacDonald
Synthesizer – Larry Nash
Written-By – Sylvester Stewart

B3 Milwaukee 4:52

Bass – Paul Stallworth
Percussion – Ralph MacDonald
Written-By – Al Jarreau

B4 Glow 4:33

Bass – Willie Weeks
Percussion – Ralph MacDonald
Written-By – Al Jarreau

Strings and synthesizers conducted and arragnedy by Dale Oehler
Drums – Joe Correro
Electric Piano – Tom Canning
Guitar – Larry Carlton

Engineers– Don Henderson, Linda Tyler

Mastered By – Doug Sax
Producer – Al Schmitt, Tommy Lipuma


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One Comment

  1. Al Jarreau – Glow in 24/192 format. Thanks in advance!.

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