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Al Jarreau: Accentuate the Swing

Al Jarreau
Al Jarreau

His new CD, Accentuate the Positive (Verve), is a long a time coming. After decades of toiling through pop and R&B-laden jazz with various degrees of success, veteran song stylist Al Jarreau has recorded his first straightahead album since 1977’s Look to the Rainbow. Songs like Eddie Harris’ soul-jazz nugget “Cold Duck” and the finger-poppin’ original “Scootcha-Booty,” cowritten by Russell Ferrante, allow Jarreau to channel his R&B roots, but it’s his shimmering interpretations of classic material such as “The Nearness of You” and “Midnight Sun” that really lift this date.

Jarreau’s luminous tenor and inimitable phrasing have always managed to prevail, no matter how inferior the setting, but on Accentuate the Positive he sounds wholly rejuvenated. So, why did it take this long? “Well, it’s just time,” he says. “I’d been promising myself and my audience this kind of CD for close to 20 years now. I think the stars, my manager and the guys at the record company kind of conspired against my normal way of doing records, because I talk about doing things forever, and I seldom get to them. Those guys were probably chatting about making me do this record while I was in the bathroom or something.”

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