"It's not my birthday but it feels like it," Al Jarreau told a large and affectionate audience at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night. Clutching flowers and gifts bestowed upon him by fans, Jarreau seemed genuinely moved by the reception and responded in kind with a performance that was at once intimate and animated.
Jarreau possesses such a remarkable voice, with supple phrasing and an expansive range, that it was easy to overlook a few forgettable songs. There were, after all, other pleasures to savor: the ease with which Jarreau scatted across octaves, his uncanny vocal imitations of various percussive effects and orchestral colors, and the sight of the singer responding to the music, his lean figure moving to the rhythms like a sail caught in softly buffeting winds.
Touring with a band that includes a horn section for the first time, Jarreau easily captured the pop effervescence of "We're In This Love Together," the party abandon of "Boogie Down" and the sheer sonic splendor of Chick Corea's "Spain." Moreover, for anyone who laments Jarreau's retreat from jazz in recent years, he included a couple of refreshing ballads and blues that revealed an emotional depth lacking on some of his hit recordings.
By Jarreau's own admission, the "birthday party" probably would have lasted all night had it not been for the Post Pavilion's closing time.