On or off stage, Al Jarreau exudes a jovial and positive spirit that is highly contagious. For over five decades, Al Jarreau has been known for his golden voice and his unique scatting styles throughout different genres, which include pop, jazz and R&B. He combines all three genres beautifully on his yuletide recording titled Christmas, a plethora of holiday favorites complete with all the Jarreau-izms that we have come to love.
Set for an October release, this compilation gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling that is associated with the holiday spirit, and it will, no doubt, be the perfect companion for your holiday listening pleasure.
Christmas bells frame the intro of the well-known "Winter Wonderland" holiday standard as it gives way to a cloying guitar arrangement that is within a modern and funky holiday groove. The power of musical simplicity is realized in "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" where Jarreau's vocal is accompanied by a bass, flute, guitar and tabla sound, the latter which gives this track a Middle Eastern shine.
The chord progressions in "White Christmas" separate this version from the original standard and the arrangement here is enchanting and signature...Jarreau in its style while "Carol of the Bells" is a straight-ahead jazzed-up version that is purely refreshing. "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" has been baked and made fresh again with a new intro verse courtesy Jarreau's bass player Chris Walker. The new verse leads so perfectly into the original verses that you'd think it was there all along.
Listen up for Take 6 on "I'll be Home for Christmas" and indulge in the breezy and addictive sway in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". Other tracks on this CD include "The Christmas Song," "Christmas Time is Here," "Some Children See Him" and "The Little Christmas Tree."
Al Jarreau sat with us at JazzReview.com to discuss his new CD, future plans, and of course, what the holiday season means to him.
JAZZREVIEW.COM: I'm loving the new CD. What have you been doing during the time before you recorded it?
AL JARREAU: This has been a very busy time for my career. We released "Love Songs" a Valentine’s compilation in January. I have been out touring with "Love Songs," and we have been abroad. As you know, Christmas records are released at or near Christmas time and so we have been busy in the studio this summer to get this one ready.
JAZZREVIEW.COM: Well, that was time well spent as the CD is awesome. What are your favorite personal tracks on this holiday CD and why?
AL JARREAU: First of all I need to listen to it a little more get a little distance from it. There are some lovely pieces on the record like "I’ll Be Home for Christmas" with Take 6, and it is a favorite of mine so far."
JAZZREVIEW.COM: I agree. The Take 6 track really captures the traditional holiday style of caroling. I loved that particular track as well. What does Christmas mean to you?
AL JARREAU: My answer is contained in one of the greatest songs about Christmas "It's the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year." If we could keep those same spirits we have at Christmas time all through the year, we would be living on a great planet. There is a magic that happens at Christmas that rubs off on everyone. The Season always begins for me in September with kids back in school and lasts through December.
JAZZREVIEW.COM: What is your favorite childhood Christmas memory?
AL JARREAU: There are several, but there was a Christmas when a friend of the family took me and my brother to a Christmas eve Church service and when we got back to the house, my father had set up the electric train. That was a very special Christmas in the Jarreau household, one that you get a special gift and get surprised in that way.
JAZZREVIEW.COM: Describe a typical Christmas day in your household now.
AL JARREAU: We sleep in. My son Ryan beats us to the Christmas tree and typically, he has had a Christmas present opening session on Christmas Eve and then he comes in to wake up me and (my wife) Susan. On Christmas Day, we don’t hurry out of bed. That is a day to take it easy and finish up the cooking from the night before, and get ready for guests.
JAZZREVIEW.COM: Sounds cozy. Now, you've played around in the pop, R&B and jazz genres throughout your career. Which is your favorite to work in and why?
AL JARREAU: All three genres are important to me and are my favorites, but I would be lost if I had to lose just one of these great genres. They all work so great together.
JAZZREVIEW.COM: Are you planning on touring soon?
AL JARREAU: Yes, I have a Christmas tour of the U.S. planned in support of the Christmas album.
JAZZREVIEW.COM: I've been fortunate enough to see you perform at the Jazz Festival in Barbados a few years ago and you had people on their feet. Where does all that energy on stage come from?
AL JARREAU: From the music and the joy inside of the music itself. If you tagged around with me any other time of the day, you would see a guy who can sit down with the best of them (laughs). I love to just sit there and relax, but I also reserve a lot of energy for the stage because it is a very special place- that stage! And, the doing of music warms my heart. I love to see people leave with something they did not come in with. It is very energizing stuff and it comes from the work. The joy is from the craft itself.
JAZZREVIEW.COM: Any other recordings in the works?
AL JARREAU: Yes, after the Christmas album, we should have a new collection out from Rhino next year.