Clearly an audience favorite, Al Jarreau has made a dozen Montreux appearances to date. Twelve years prior to this 70-minute set from 1993, he was captured live, albeit briefly, alongside Randy Crawford at the venerable Swiss festival, their trio of duets included on the compilation Casino Lights.
Fine as the Jarreau/Crawford pairings are, this ’93 session, released for the first time, showcases the soul-jazz master not only at his vocal peak but also among the most exemplary company of his long, distinguished career: pianist Joe Sample, bassist Marcus Miller and percussionist Paulinho da Costa, as well as R&B guitar virtuoso Eric Gale and drummer Steve Gadd, then recent Stuff alumni.
An inveterate crowd-pleaser, Jarreau builds his 11-track set list primarily around album staples dating back to his 1975 debut, We Got By. Atop Sample’s twinkling intro, he opens with a loose, breezy reading of his biggest chart success, “We’re in This Love Together,” segueing into a lightly funkified “Try a Little Tenderness” and, new to his repertoire, a dense, sinewy “Summertime.” An urgent “Mas Que Nada” is offset by a superbly slow, intense “She’s Leaving Home.” His scat skills get a workout on “You Don’t See Me,” while “Save Your Love for Me” is shaped with cashmere tenderness and “Your Song” shines with skillfully modulated ebullience. Jarreau closes with what would become another signature, “Puddit,” his reimagining of the Sample-penned Crusaders’ hit “Put It Where You Want It.”