Everything still fine for Al Jarreau, who still finds 'great joy' in singing

CorrespondentApril 25, 2014 

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After more than 40 years as a singer, Al Jarreau is a pro at making shows memorable by rearranging songs and offering entertaining patter. “I love connecting with the audience,” he says.

EFREM LUKATSKY — AP

At the turn of the century, Al Jarreau proclaimed during an interview that he would be singing well into his 80s. Jarreau, 74, is well on his way to making good on that promise.

“I was confident of it then,” Jarreau says. “You look at guys like B.B. King, Frank Sinatra and Lionel Hampton. They all did it. I’m in good shape. I still sound like I did 20 years ago and I love what I do.”

The jazz-pop singer, who is best known for belting out such hits as “We’re In This Love Together,” “Mornin’ ” and “Teach Me Tonight,” remains a playful and energetic vocalist as he eyes his octogenarian years.

“It’s still fun,” Jarreau says. “It’s a great joy. The thing for me is that I keep it interesting every night for me and the audience. I’ll do some different things. I’ll make it memorable.”

And after toiling more than 40 years as a singer, Jarreau is a pro at making shows memorable by rearranging songs and offering entertaining patter.

“I love connecting with the audience and there’s more ways than one to do that,” Jarreau says.

“One of the ways is to sing and you feed off the people who are swaying in the crowd or singing along. You connect with them while you sing. But I also love to connect with people in between songs. I say what’s on my mind and have a good time. I try to give people a show. It’s all about giving people a good time, once you get out under those lights. That’s why I’ve been able to do this for so long. I want to give the audience the whole package, and for me the whole package is to give them something fresh as well. It’s not as much fun resting on your laurels.”

Jarreau, who will perform Thursday at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, has enjoyed remarkable success, collecting seven Grammy Awards and selling millions of albums.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” he says. “There’s a lot of very talented singers that have not gotten this far.”

One reason for Jarreau’s staying power is that he wisely avoided most of the indulgences that come with success – indulgences that attracted many of his peers.

“It’s always been about making music,” Jarreau says. “I’ve never gotten caught up with the trappings. You can’t get caught up in the limousines and the chicks. The most important thing is the music. I wouldn’t stick around this long or intend to stay around as long as I want to if that wasn’t so. Who knew it would turn out the way it did?”

Intent on looking forward, Jarreau also looks back happily on his childhood in Milwaukee, which he says shaped him.

“It was an interesting place and time,” Jarreau said. “I grew up with polka. I grew up next to a place called the Polka Tavern. I could do a polka album. But back then I also heard Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. All that music had an impact on me. Not only did I become a singer, I’m still doing it all these years later. It’s wonderful.”

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