Al Jarreau is a master of rhythms from around the world. His bag of sounds and improvisations is informed by a host of influences—the music of the church and Africa and Brazil, for example—administered with a taste of funk. He can take you on a magic carpet ride, high above the maddening static of tweets, cell phones and digital overload. (Though he’s not above referencing those sounds when he sings.) He thrills me with his spontaneous creativity and his humor, humanity and love. Al’s got a whole lot of it.
I felt this up close in January 2015, at the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition in Los Angeles. Al was a judge. When we met I began the process of arranging an interview for Voices in Jazz—no small task given his schedule.