Look to the Rainbow: Live in Europe – Al Jarreau (Warner Bros. – 1977)
by A. Scott Galloway
The first time most folks heard Al Jarreau, they had no idea who – let alone what – he was. The occasion: the last song on Side 2 of Quincy Jones’ Body Heat (A&M – 1974), the now-classic Quiet Storm nugget “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” which was a duet between songwriter Leon Ware and Minnie Riperton. Backstroking in a simmering stew of aquatic bass, African hand drums, enigmatic Fender Rhodes and Wah guitar, Al introduced himself as a human cabasa…the fox in the brush…the medium of the séance…the hippest of hosts announcing the arrival of Hubert Laws’ flute followed by the sensual sweet nothings of Ware (co-writer with Pam Sawyer) and Riperton, ever-ready to lobby ‘the sexy’ backatcha in triplicate. However, it was Jarreau’s disembodied wordless vocalese that set the scene of the otherworldly paradise. Who was this secret sauce of L’Q’s Soul-Jazz soufflé’?
Three years later, that voice came shadow boxing over the jazz airwaves live and direct from somewhere in Europe tearing into a vocal version of Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” – like Ali going upside the head of Joe Frazier. His embodiment of percussion was immediately recognizable but he was also singing words that, up to that point, had only been wrung by Carmen McRae. The audience could not contain itself, serving up love to Jarreau as he served it right back in a volley like Arthur Ashe and Chris Evert. Their ears and ours were being treated to the sumptuous vocal smorgasbord that is Al Jarreau via a specially priced double album titled Look to the Rainbow, the artist’s third album following two little-heard studio LPs: We Got By (Reprise – 1975) and Glow (Reprise – 1976).