Al Jarreau & George Benson
@ St. Lucia Jazz Festival, Pigeon Island
12 May 2007
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The beauty and charm of Pigeon Island
during the day, or night, never fails to excite the senses. With
the Atlantic Ocean on one side, the Caribbean Sea on the other,
delicately lit palm trees gently kissing the sky, combined with
the anticipation of a tremendous musical experience is surely enough
to warm the coolest hearts.
Al Jarreau biography
Al Jarreau began singing and harmonising with his brothers from
the tender age of 4. A young Jarreau would perform solo at many
local events in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Jarreau enrolled at Ripon College in Wisconsin and continued singing
for fun. He performed at local gigs at weekends and during holidays
with a group named The Indigos. Jarreau graduated with a Bachelor
Of Science degree in Psychology and moved on to the University of
Lowa. Here he earned is Master’s Degree in Vocational Rehabilitation.
With qualifications in hand, Jarreau relocated to San Francisco
to begin a career in rehabilitation counselling.
As well as working as rehabilitation counsellor during the 1960’s,
Jarreau found time to sing at a small jazz club with a trio led
by keyboard master George Duke. It would not be long before Jarreau’s
voice began to win fans and gain attention from other musicians.
He would also realise that singing would be ‘his life’.
After relocating to Los Angeles in the late 60’s, Jarreau
performed in nightspots such as Dino’s, the Bitter End West
and the Troubador. He gained national television exposure with celebrities
such as Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, David Frost, Mike Douglas,
In 1975, Jarreau signed to Warner Brothers after being spotted
by talent scouts while performing at the Ba Bla Café in Los
Angeles. His debut album “We Got By” was released the
same year to critical acclaim. Jarreau was awarded a German Grammy
for Best New International Soloist. A second German Grammy came
his way with the release of his follow-up album “Glow”
released in 1976.
1977 would see Jarreau embark on his first world tour. The double
live album “Look To The Rainbow” featuring selected
cuts from the tour was released. Jarreau would be awarded his first
American Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance the same year.
In 1978, Jarreau’s fourth album “All Fly Home”
was greeted with further acclaim, a wider audience and a second
American Grammy for Best Jazz vocalist. This album also spawned
the million selling “Breakin’ Away” and two Grammy
Awards for Best Male Pop Vocalist and Best Male vocalist. His follow
up albums “Jarreau” and “High Crime” released
in 1983 spawned a string of R&B and pop hits further cementing
his international appeal at every level. By 1987 Jarreau’s
vocals could be heard on a weekly basis with the theme song for
the hit television series Moonlighting.
Jarreau further proved his versatility in the mid 90’s by
accepting a three-month stint on Broadway playing the role of Teen
Angel in the musical Grease. He also appeared on New York Undercover,
Touched By An Angel and a national McDonald’s commercial with
R&B songstress Vesta Williams.
On March 6, 2001 Jarreau was honoured with a star on the “Hollywood
Walk Of Fame”.
George Benson biography
“George Benson is undeniably one of the consummate
artists of our time and producing music of his calibre is all that
any producer can ask for…”
George Benson began his professional career singing, dancing and
playing the ukulele in nightclubs at the tender age of eight. At
age seventeen he formed a rock band using a guitar made by his stepfather.
As Benson was exposed to music by Charlie Parker, Montgomery and
Christian, his interest in jazz came as no surprise to many. In
1962 a teenaged Benson joined Brother Jack McDuff’s band.
By 1965 Benson formed his own group and was discovered by talent
scout John Hammond. Benson would record two critically acclaimed
albums of the soul-jazz and hard bop genre for Columbia as well
as being included on recording sessions with others such as Miles
Davis’ “Miles in the sky”. Benson switched to
Verve records in 1967, and shortly after the death of Montgomery
in June 1968, producer Creed Taylor began recording Benson with
larger ensembles on A&M and big groups and all-star combos on
CTI between 1971-1976. By this time Benson’s own ideas and
creativity had begun to grow. He explains:
“I’d been screaming about my guitar sound for years,
and they didn’t want to hear about it. I wanted to use my
band in the studio, just get comfortable and test out some stuff.
But it was like pulling teeth. The first time I tried to sing along
with my guitar, everybody in the studio booed. They said that it
wouldn’t work. When I got with Tommy Lipuma (Warner Brothers)
all that changed. He said ‘Sure, let’s go with some
vocals, see where we get.’ And you know what happened after
The album Breezin’ became the first jazz record to obtain
platinum sales status, with the sole vocal track “This Masquerade”
receiving substantial attention from commercial radio. Benson had
certainly reached a larger audience, but breaking new ground was
not well received by many purists:
“I guess that’s the biggest crime I’ve made
as far as jazz lovers go,” offers Benson. “They don’t
always like to see you play for the general public. They want to
be catered to. But I’ve tried that approach and it doesn’t
work for me. Nobody can stay one way for 30 years. I’ve tried
to let my experience show itself. You learn, you change. The door
opened and I walked through it.”
Benson’s commercial successes continued throughout the 1980’s,
the highlight being the Quincy Jones produced smash “Give
Me The Night”. But as the 80’s drew to a close questions
were mounting about Benson’s seemingly continued quest for
greater commercial success (if possible). Benson silenced these
critics with the release of his standards album “Tenderly”
in 1989 and the swinging “Big Boss Band” album with
the Basie band in 1990. Both albums would see the return of Benson’s
guitar to the forefront of many compositions.
Benson followed Tommy Lipuma to the GRP label in the mid-‘90s.
The two had formed a successful commercial bond that they both wanted
to sustain. In 1996, GRP released the acclaimed cotemporary jazz
album “That’s Right”.
George Benson is an eight-time Grammy Award winner who just keeps
going. He is a diverse and unpredictable artist who has influenced
musicians from varying genres.
Benson’s acclaim both commercially and within the critical
Jazz world continues. He continues to release beautifully crafted
material and sell out concerts around the globe.
Al Jarreau – vocals
George Benson – vocals / guitar
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.