Al Jarreau shines at benefit

Special to The Times

Benefit concerts can be little more than a group of obligatory performances. “An Evening for the Station,” which was held Saturday at the Los Angeles Music Academy in Pasadena, is one of the exceptions: an evening in which artists embrace the opportunity to celebrate musical togetherness at the service of a worthwhile cause.

The show, which benefited the efforts by the Union Station Foundation to aid the poor and homeless in Pasadena and the West San Gabriel Valley, celebrated its fifth installment with a lineup that included Al Jarreau, the Yellowjackets, Jeff Goldblum, Hector Elizondo, the Perri Sisters, Kevyn Lettau and Jean Baylor. Most have appeared in past concerts for Union Station, and all clearly enjoyed the evening’s relaxed, laid-back vibe as well as the chance to interact in spirited creative fashion.

Performing in the headliner slot, Jarreau was remarkable. He has always tended to resist the label of “jazz singer,” preferring “pop” and “rhythm & blues” as labels for his singing. But his spectacular inventiveness, individually and in duets with Baylor and Lettau, can only be defined as vocal jazz of the highest order.


Singing “All of You” with Baylor, he followed her first rendering of the melody with a stunning musical paraphrase, investing the song with an instantly created new line. His rendering of “Midnight Sun” and “Cold Duck Time” (items from his latest CD, “Accentuate the Positive”) revealed two more aspects of his far-ranging skills, reaching from the flowing, chromatic curlicues of the former to the groove-driven funk of the latter.

The come-together aspects of the evening continued with the versatile Lettau, who opened her set with a unique take on “Bye Bye Blackbird” before joining with Elizondo to find the inner spirit of “Being Green.” Later, she returned to perform a marvelously vivacious set of Brazilian tunes with Jarreau.

The Perri Sisters, always crowd pleasers, applied their spirited blend of soul and gospel to a foot-tapping, body-moving romp through “Someone Like You” and joined the talented young Baylor on a touching reading of “The Hope.” The Yellowjackets, after opening with a brief number, staunchly provided backing -- with the occasional aid of bassist Dean Taba -- for the balance of the artists, and Goldblum contributed a jaunty, Thelonious Monk-like piano solo.