Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, September 23, 1999

Jarreau forges
empathy with listeners

Michael Paulo may join Jarreau on stage

By Tim Ryan


He's as easy going, thoughtful, and playful as his music.

Al Jarreau is one of those rare entertainers who takes as much time to think about what he's going to say before he says it as he does to think about songs before he sings them.

And if the jazz-pop-rhythm and blues singer who performs tomorrow and Saturday nights with the Honolulu Pops orchestra has one rule about music it's this:

"There should be a law that songs have a melody, more than three chords, and involve the interesting development of a story," Jarreau says in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles home.

Jarreau knows music. He's a five-time Grammy Award winner that includes winning in three categories: jazz, pop and R&B. He may be best known for singing the theme from the 1980's television series "Moonlighting" starring Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis.

"But I ain't laid a glove on them, haven't touched them yet," Jarreau says regarding future plans. "The potential audience out there is enormous. I'm just getting started for those those 'young-uns' who haven't heard of Al Jarreau."

But for those millions who do know Jarreau's music they may say the man feels what he sings.

"Booooom," the singer says. "A song has gotta touch me deep in my stuff."

Then Jarreau starts singing long distance the Beatles' song "She's Leaving Home."

"People hear me sing that song in a new way," Jarreau says. "I feel it ... because I lived there ... in Haight-Ashbury where those kids who had left home came. It touched me and I access those feelings."

Jarreau started singing in his early teens with a goal of being a professional singer. He always intended to go to college, which was expected in his family "like eating vegetables at dinner and going to church on Sunday," Jarreau said.

He attended the University of Minnesota where he earned a master's degree in psychology and then worked as a rehabilitation counselor for the city.

"I wasn't very good; I couldn't manage the size of the case loads," Jarreau said. "I didn't have that clerical thing happening what with 120 people assigned to me."

And though he strongly rejects the notion that his psych background contributes to his musical success, Jarreau will agree he's a sensitive guy.

"The common ground is being sensitive to people's feelings, whether you're sitting across the table from someone or to an audience from a stage. "I can express that."

Then Jarreau whispers.

"See, I'm willing to put myself there in the moment with that ... audience," he said. "I access those feelings."

Is this emotional control why the singer-family man has never been fodder for public scandal?

"The truth is I'm the most boring *&&CENT% you ever knew," he said. "What my career needs is a juicy scandal. Do me a favor write about me and the stewardess getting caught on my flight to Hawaii. I'll owe you big time."

Then Susan, Jarreau's wife, takes the phone.

"What did he say about a stewardess?" she asks, laughing.

When Jarreau takes back the receiver he's laughing so hard he can barely speak but jokes about sending his "spoiled" son and wife to Mississippi "to chop cotton."

Jarreau chants:

"Ohhh, get up early and on the barge we go and we hoe and picks the cotton."

But mention the current music scene and Jarreau turns serious.

"There's a cultural revolution going on among black people not unlike the hippie revolution of the 1960s," he says. "And true rhythm and blues is gone."

Jarreau calls inner city music the "the hippy-hop revolution."

And where does Jarreau fit into that culture?

"I don't, but neither do Lionel (Ritchie) or Stevie (Wonder) or Aretha (Franklin)," Jarreau says.

Like rapid technological changes in society, the culture is being forced to listen to music that may not be everyone's first choice, Jarreau says.

"Nobody is writing music that people want to sing but would rather rap to," he says. "But the good news is that eventually out of that nasty, funky attitude you'll find some real creative stuff and someday there'll be a Langston Hughes, a James Baldwin or a Maya Angelou."

In a strange sense Jarreau says he enjoys standing back from the maddening music scene to observe the absurd.

"I see little, blue-haired ladies driving down the freeway with their radios blasting rap and they're nodding their heads," Jarreau says squealing with laughter. "God, they're doing everything but flashing gang signs."

Al Jarreau

Bullet In concert: With the Honolulu Pops, 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday
Bullet Venue: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Bullet Tickets: $15-$50
Bullet Call: 538-8863


Michael Paulo

Michael Paulo may
join Jarreau on stage

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


When Michael Paulo opens for Al Jarreau's pops concert with the Honolulu Symphony tomorrow it will be both a homecoming and a reunion. Paulo is based in Los Angeles but still calls Hawaii home. He was born and raised here, grew up playing music with his parents, entertainers Akemi & Rene Paulo, then left the family show to make it on his own.

Paulo first made a name for himself as a sideman on Kalapana's first two albums; he and drummer Alvin Fejerang were officially promoted to full membership status in 1977. Two years later he went solo. Paulo formed his own group in 1980, moved to LA in 1981, and spent the next two years establishing himself there. From 1983 to 1992 he toured with Al Jarreau.

Paulo's gig tomorrow comes in the middle of a national tour promoting his fifth solo album, "Midnight Passion." He fielded three questions earlier this week while on the road in California."

Question: The usual format for pops concerts is that the local act does a few songs with the Symphony before intermission and then departs. This concert would be especially noteworthy if at some point you got together with Jarreau on his set. Since you worked with Jarreau for nine years and left on good terms, how's it look?

Answer: I talked to his manager and he said it's cool. It's kind of a reunion of sorts since we haven't worked together since 1992, and it will be the first time I've played as an artist on the same bill with him. I always thought it would be great after his nurturing my career to someday be on the same bill opening up for him as a solo artist. It's happening!

Q: How do you balance the artistic side and the business side of the music business?

A: With great difficulty! The biggest problem when I started (my own label) was that it was all becoming business. After five years I've learned how to split my time as an artist and in dealing with the business, and to delegate authority so I can be more creative.

Q: What are your current projects?

A: We've released Pauline Wilson's solo album from Japan in the United States, and a compilation album on Seawind, recorded albums by drummer Michael White and pianist Brian Simpson, and just released an album by saxophonist Ron Brown called "Urban Dreams." With my own album I'm trying to reintroduce myself to Hawaii because it feels sometimes like people have forgotten me -- when they do the Hawaii Jazz Festival I don't even get a call!

The project I'm most excited about is recording with my dad. We've recorded some pieces together and I'm trying to figure out conceptually what kind of record to do with him.

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