Al Jarreau Laughs Off Health Scare: 'I'm Doing Great'
Al Jarreau says worldwide reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated in July -- but he enjoyed them nevertheless.
"I said, 'OK, finally, maybe I have arrived!," Jarreau, who underwent a catheter ablation to treat a heart arrhythmia on July 26 in Gap, France, tells Billboard.com. "There's a tabloid thing that happens for people who are...big celebrities, and I got some of that so I figured, 'Yeah, maybe I have arrived." But, Jarreau adds, the episode "did kind of scare a lot of people, and that was a little bit disturbing."
The jazz/R&B/pop singer says the situation was not quite as dire as some of the early reports -- which had him on his death bed -- indicated. "I had a shortness of breath incident," Jarreau explains, "and I went in and it led to a real thorough examination...and I found out I had some cells that were misfiring and miscommunicating in my heart and making my heart race and causing a shortness of breath. And there was an easy fix for it, so we did the fix, and there are a few lifestyle changes in place now. I think I might have avoided and averted some other, bigger problems had I not discovered it. But we're beyond that now, and I'm doing great."
Jarreau was, in fact, back to performing live just nine days after the operation, and around the same time he hit the studio with Brazilian artist Eumir Deodato for a track called "Double Face," which will be on a new album due out this fall. "I listened and liked it and got to work on a melody and lyric for it," recalls Jarreau, who's posted a clip from the sessions on his official web site. "It's a good piece of work, one of the best pieces of work I've ever done. It was just a totally wonderful experience."
Jarreau will also be featured on "Shine Shoes," a track on the next album by jazz artist Paul Brown. He's looking to use both of those tracks on his next album -- his first since "Accentuate the Positive" in 2004 (not counting his 2008 holiday album) -- which Jarreau hopes to start recording later this year and release by the summer of 2011.
"I haven't gotten in the studio yet," he reports, "but we're culling rough material and finding things. There'll be some jazz, some R&B and pop. I'm doing writing, too." Jarreau says he's also been talking to "a really brilliant writer...of contemporary music of the last 20 years" about contributing some material to the set, although he won't identify who it is "in case it doesn't happen."
Also in the potential offing are some recordings Jarreau and longtime friend George Duke made together between 1965-68, which the duo recently unearthed and is thinking about releasing. "We're gonna review that music and put it through some filters and high tech things that will clean it up and try to make some of that music available," says Jarreau, who declined to put a timetable on the project. "It's unlike any music you've heard me and George do. It's very exciting."