As I finished college, jazz had successfully crossed over to fuse with rock, “smooth jazz” was a format long in the future as many gifted jazz musicians explored different directions, combining jazz with other forms of music to create novel hybrids.
Coming from rock/blues and still relatively new to jazz, for me it was a period full of joyful discovery. Music had always been my biggest distraction — I often arranged my life to accommodate it (like dropping out of school for a year after landing a spot as a front man for a traveling band). Music is also what drew me to radio as a potential career.
As a singer, one artist that stood out to me was Al Jarreau. Bobby McFerrin, who would come along later and whose name became synonymous with an uncanny ability to generate a seemingly limitless range of vocal sounds, wasn’t “on the map” yet and like many, I was astounded by Jarreau’s marvelous technique: his improv skills, his imagination, mastery of range, pitch and phrasing, and the spectrum of sounds he produced. Seeing him live was always a treat. His approach is personable and warm. He often interacts with the audience. Jarreau croons and ladies swoon.
Back when I fell in love with the guy, this was one of my favorites, Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”.