His voice was a saxophone, a snare drum or a double bass. His improvisations went well beyond traditional scat: Al Jarreau knew how to imitate every sound, every instrument. The Montreux public got a good idea of his faculty for improvisation at his first visit to the Festival in 1976. Except for his pianist, none of his musicians could be there that day. So Al Jarreau started singing as though he were the entire orchestra.
Today, it is with emotion that we think back on the magical moments that punctuated his 16 editions at the Festival. Al Jarreau always managed to build bridges between genres. And all the collaborations he participated in at Montreux! He was equally classy as he lent his voice to feverish blues with Santana or a delicate duet with Randy Crawford. In 1991, he participated in the event “From bebop to hip-hop”, at the crossroads of rap and jazz, orchestrated by Quincy Jones.
Immensely generous, Al Jarreau had a deep and abiding love of sharing his passion. His dearest wish was for everyone to find theirs. As a mentor at the Montreux Jazz Academy and as president of the jury for the voice competition, Al Jarreau transmitted his knowledge, his talent, and his open mind to the younger generations. In 2015 he was left speechless by the performance of young South African singer Vuyo Sotashe. When he was asked if he was ready to take on that role again this coming March, Al Jarreau didn’t hesitate an instant.
Fate decided otherwise. His final visit to Montreux, last summer, will forever symbolize the strong ties between the singer and the Festival. After an intimate concert at the Club and an emotional workshop, he participated in the 50th anniversary evening organized by Quincy Jones. “I’m sitting in a chair and I dance better today than when I could stand on two feet!”, he confided to the Festival.
Passion, all the way.