Al Jarreau (GRP/Verve)
A versatile, genre-jumping vocalist equally at home scat-singing, warbling jazz tunes or emoting on Latin-pop and R&B ballads, jarreau is too often dismissed as a lightweight. Returning after a six-year hiatus with a new album of polished pop tunes, the five-time Grammy winner lends his expressive baritone to the finger-popping love song “Last Night” and the propulsive “In My Music.” But even when he lets it rip, Jarreau will never be confused with any of R&B’s flashy power-balladeers. His modulated, nuanced songs are laden with the sort of shimmering arrangements associated with easy-listening jazz. Mellow is the word here, and Jarreau’s approach, which often emphasizes technique over intensity, may not be everyone’s cup of chamomile. And yet when he digs in, as he does on the gorgeous and atmospheric “Something That You Said,” he is passion personified.
Bottom Line: Often overlooked pop treasure