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Al Jarreau is quintessential contemporary jazz artist, and the only vocalist in music history to receive Grammy awards in jazz, pop, and R&B categories.
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Singer-songwriter Al Jarreau was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 12, 1940. His first album was released in 1965. He has recorded more than two dozen albums over the last three decades, becoming the only vocalist in music history to receive Grammy awards in three separate categories (jazz, pop and R&B). In 1996, the Best of Al Jarreau compilation was released, featuring his career hits.
Jarreau grew up in a religious household; his father was a minister and Al began singing in the church choir at the age of four. In 1960, he graduated from Wisconsin's Ripon College, where he performed locally with a group called The Indigos on weekends. After earning his Master's Degree in Vocational Rehabilitation from the University of Iowa, he moved to San Francisco to begin a brief career as a social worker. There, his desire to sing persisted, and he found himself performing at a small jazz club with a trio headed by George Duke.
Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin. His first album, 1965, released that year, was pure jazz featuring pianist Cal Bezemer, bassist Gary Allen and drummer Joe Abodeely.
In 1975, after a 10-year break from recording, Jarreau went back to the studio to produce We Got By, his first release for Warner Bros. Records. During the next two decades, Jarreau would release almost an album per year. Career highlights include 1981's Breakin' Away, which went platinum thanks to the hit single "We're in This Love Together" and the popular theme song from the 1980s television show, Moonlighting. All Fly Home, was released in 1978, earning a second Grammy for Best Jazz Vocalist. In 1985, Al Jarreau Live In London, recorded at Wembley Arena, helped solidify his reputation as a world-class master of both studio and stage. Breakin' Away won two more Grammy's with awards for Best Male Pop Vocalist and Best Male Jazz Vocalist.
In 1992, after touring the globe for nearly two years, Jarreau returned to the studio to produce Heaven and Earth for which he received his fifth Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance. He released Tenderness in 1994 with an all-star cast, including David Sanborn, Kathleen Battle, Joe Sample and Steve Gadd.
In 1996, Jarreau began a three-month stint on Broadway playing the role of Teen Angel in the hit musical Grease.
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Jazz vocalists have made immeasurable contributions to the American songbook. Not only was Louis Armstrong renowned for his innovations as a trumpet soloist, but he also had a distinctive, gravelly voice that incorporated swing and humor. A host of other jazz singers enjoyed great popularity in the mid-20th century, including Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne and Nina Simone. Several established careers in film and television as well. Contemporary artists like Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Krall continue to carry the musical baton.
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