Black History Month – Al Jarreau and Robinson Center

aljWhile he made a few subsequent visits in the intervening years, Al Jarreau’s first visit to Little Rock was in May 2002, when he performed with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra at Robinson Center Music Hall.

By that time, Jarreau was a Grammy winning artist with a decades long career.  He received a total of seven Grammy Awards (and several other nominations). So in a way it was fitting that he died on the day that the 2017 Grammy Awards were handed out.

Jarreau’s unique vocal sounds lent itself to many different styles of music.  He would sing jazz, R&B, and standards from the American songbook.  While his recordings were a delight, seeing him perform in concert was even better due to the joy in his face as he was performing.

Born in Milwaukee, he was the son of a minister and church musician.  Growing up singing music, he sang in groups while in college (though his degree was in psychology).  While working as a rehab counselor in San Francisco in the late 1960s, he started performing in music clubs in the Bay Area.  In 1968, he made music his primary vocation. (But education remained a key focus of his philanthropic and volunteer activities.)

In the 1970s and 1980s, he recorded and toured extensively.  In the 1990s, he did not record as much, but kept up his touring schedule.  He also played the Teen Angel on Broadway in a revival of Grease.  He kept touring up until earlier this year.  On February 8, after being hospitalized, he announced his retirement from touring.