Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jarreau Borders on Excess; O'Day Directs Energies to Style

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jarreau Borders on Excess; O'Day Directs Energies to Style

Article excerpt


At Carnegie Hall.

With jazz vocalizing, there's a fine line between enhancing a song and trivializing it, and singer Al Jarreau, performing at Carnegie Hall as part of the JVC Jazz Festival, crossed it with one of his first numbers. Performing Elton John's "Your Song," the singer took this quiet and moving ballad and, with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of tics and mannerisms, stripped it of feeling.

Jarreau's voice is, to be sure, an impressive instrument, and he can do amazing things with it. In just the opening minutes of his concert, he had it swooping and swirling, going from a high falsetto to a deep bass rumble, and he made sounds that resembled gargling, far-off explosions, and the noise of heavy machinery operating at various speeds.

Coupled with the contortions he went through, including various kung fu poses, it did not make for a relaxing evening, and there were more than the usual number of walkouts. To be fair, there were many fans who had acquired a taste for Jarreau's peculiarities, and who cheered vociferously.

The singer was in an ebullient mood, warning the audience from the beginning that "this is not Mozart" and making many jokes about Carnegie Hall, at one point confusing it with the nearby Carnegie Deli. He didn't even seem to mind when one fan enthusiastically called out a request for "Turn Your Love Around," a song that happened to be a hit for George Benson, although Jarreau joked that he should rip up the offender's ticket stub.

There were times, to be sure, when one could simply marvel at Jarreau's capabilities, particularly when he was performing such showoff jazz pieces as Chick Corea's "Spain (I Can Recall)" and Dave Brubeck's "Take Five." He also managed to quiet down occasionally, to positive effect, in songs like "Teach Me Tonight" and his huge pop hit, "We're in This Love Together."

But even in these moments, the singer's effectiveness was cut down by the too-loud sound mix, which transformed his five-piece electric band to a deafening roar (he did seem aware of the problem, complaining that the acoustics in the hall weren't conducive to amplified instruments). …

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