I was saddened to hear that the great Al Jarreau passed away on February 12. Al was a prolific writer and performer with a strong gospel and R&B flavour to his music. His music consistently pushed the envelope for music as a whole, infusing elements such as vocal percussion and spoken word seamlessly. His live recording of “Take Five” and the recording Look to the Rainbow truly impacted my view of music and proved to me that Al was absolutely one of the greats. Al has claimed seven Grammy Awards and over a dozen nominations in jazz, R&B, pop, and children’s categories.
Al Jarreau is one of my heroes, not only for his singing, but also for his spirit. After competing in the Thelonious Monk Competition in 2015, I received an email from Al who was one of the judges that year. In it he stated that “anyone who has FOUND music, and is doing it enough so that they can be performing and/or rehearsing their music, has struck gold.” I will always appreciate that he took the time to message and support the people who look up to him.
There have been so many losses this past year in the artist community, and I want to thank Al for truly influencing the way I (and countless others) approach both music and voice.
To all our wonderful Jazz Vocal Competitors 2015
I had hoped there would be time to say this to you, in person, but it didn’t happen. So, I’ve asked the Thelonious Monk Institute to pass this little note to you.
Please don’t dismiss this statement that maybe sounds a little silly and sophomoric—you are all winners. All. That means and includes the three finalists, and the other eight semi-finalists, AND a whole bunch of great singers who sent in their applications and demo CD’s for the competition.
Important! Anyone who has FOUND music, and who is doing it enough to be performing and/or rehearsing their music, is the winner and has struck gold. They will smile in the morning, and they will smile at night, anticipating the morning. This person will do it for free! And they do. They go to choir rehearsal on Wednesday night, and they sing in the church choir on Sunday, with their faces beaming with joy and happiness because they are doing something that they love so deeply and dearly, and they know they will never have a recording contract. They are doing it. That’s the secret.
Check it out, if it’s not music that you would do for free, go find it! Go find that something that thrills you when you are doing it, and do it. You’ll be full of joy and happiness, and that will make you a pleasant husband or wife, a nice father, a nice neighbor, and citizen of your community and world.
Just a couple of other things. Feel free to not scat. “Maybe T. Monk implies too much.” Relax! Billie Holiday, Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams never scatted a phrase in their lives.
The voice happens to come with a mind and a language, words and texts, that convey meaning beyond mere tone that’s similar to all other instruments. Think about the songs you want to sing, and the things you want to say. Think about the things you will write. Music can soothe, inspire, reassure, educate, and most importantly, heal. You can do all of that. Oh, your grandmother and your children are listening. God bless you, good luck. Every day is Thanks Giving.