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Smooth pop/jazz vocalists Al Jarreau hasn't released a new record in over six years and hasn't really had a big hit since 1981's Breakin' Away (Warner Bros.). Nevertheless, his voice remains as strong, quirky and flexible as ever, even if he long ago abandoned his jazz beginnings. Unfortunately, Jarreau's song choices now lean towards slick R&B, soft and airy ballads and contemporary pop.
Pity. He makes a rather unconvincing attempt at sounding funky on "In My Music" and then looks to cash in on the current Latin craze with the title track. Neither effort works. "God's Gift To The World," a duet with Vanessa Williams, will appeal only to all those Celine Dion fans out there who can't get their fill of vacuous "power ballads." The a cappella closer "Puddit (Put It in Your Pocket)," a la Bobby McFerrin, is technically impressive, yet fails to connect with the listener on an emotional level. And that's the problem with most of this CDtoo slick, too smooth, too familiar.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.