Al Jarreau

Tenderness

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Rather than do a strictly studio or strictly live album next, Jarreau recorded a "live in the studio" affair before an invited audience -- and this time he would not be bothered with the latest new mediocre R&B tunes. Spreading his net from the Gershwins through Lennon-McCartney to Jorge Ben, Elton John and himself, Jarreau assembled a core band that includes vets like Joe Sample, Steve Gadd, the late Eric Gale, and producer Marcus Miller and turned himself loose on the songs with a freedom that hasn't been heard extensively on his records since the '70s. As then, he transplants standards of whatever school into his own cross-genre idiom, squeezing his tone through the syllables and flashing his speed scatting. He produces some lovingly drawn-out reprises of "She's Leaving Home" and "We Got By," a semi-funk "Summertime" with echoes of Gil Evans in the horns, and fits into the rapid-fire "Mas Que Nada" in the Brazilian manner-born. Opera diva Kathleen Battle's breathless coloratura soprano makes for an odd, unsettling contrast with Jarreau's snake-like wanderings in "My Favorite Things" (the only track recorded at a separate session in New York; the others were cut in L.A.); Michael Brecker's tenor sax adds a third alien voice to the mix. Those who were first drawn to Jarreau from his live and recorded performances of the mid-'70s are going to like this CD -- and this time, the new material ("Wait for the Magic," "Dinosaur") is not only interesting and thought-provoking, it makes good use of Jarreau's voice. As with Live In London, a home video of the sessions is available, but contains only ten tracks.

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