Curfew brought an abrupt end to a set of Al Jarreau’s trademark scatology Sunday, closing his show on a rambling note rather than the crisp pop that ordinarily would have been his sign-off. But with Take 6 putting in a vibrant and inspirational turn and Jarreau showing how versatile and vocally strong he still is at 57, a dull middle set by saxophonist Boney James was easy to ignore.
Jarreau, touring to pitch a Warner Bros. greatest-hits package, stuck to stretching out the nuggets (“We’re in This Love Together,” “Take Five,” etc.) with wild improvisational flurries. At times he twisted lyrics to state the purpose of the evening — that there is life after MTV and there are musical alternatives such as this package — and elsewhere his vocalizing was an entertaining testament to his range from deep bass to a squeal.
At quieter moments the band shone; bolster the tempo, however, and it became a homogenous pool and over-the-top soloing (particularly sax man Gary Meek). If anything, the band leans too far to the R&B side as Jarreau tackles jazz — not surprisingly, Les McCann’s jazz-funk standard “Compared to What” was a shining moment in which vocalist and band jelled superbly.
Take 6, the Christian-based a cappella sextet with a nine-year history at Warners, was its usual uplifting self. The vocal group runs with an uncanny breeziness from Miles Davis’ “All Blues” to the light pop of Ambrosia’s “Biggest Part of Me” to a gospel/hip-hop hybrid. It’s all logical and engrossing, deserving of a much wider audience.