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Record Review


On his third album for GRP/Verve, versatile vocalist Al Jarreau attempts to trade in the smooth-jazz feel of his most recent works in favor of straight-ahead jazz-pop. To that end, he reunites with producer Tommy LiPuma, who helmed the singer's mid-'70s albums Glow and Look to the Rainbow, and digs into a bag of comforting, familiar standards like "Cold Duck" and "The Nearness of You."

But Jarreau never quite shakes free of the easy-listening vibe that marked his previous two albums, Tomorrow Today and All I Got. LiPuma backs Jarreau with a talented, tasteful assemblage of vets like bassist Christian McBride and drummer Peter Erskine, and sets a decidedly reverent tone that emphasizes genteel, supper-club propriety. Ironically, the results are often less diverting than on the aforementioned releases. Rare is the jazz album that causes a listener to think it would be improved by a visit from saxophonist Boney James, but Accentuate the Positive proves strangely lacking in the joyous, well, verve of Jarreau's smooth-jazz excursions.

Compounding that feel are Jarreau's inconsistent vocals; well-executed performances on "Scootcha-Booty" and the title track are counterbalanced by numbers ("I'm Beginning to See the Light," "My Foolish Heart") in which Jarreau slides into a flat, papery echo of his talents. Accentuate the Positive isn't without its positive moments, but it's too soft-focus, too muted, to serve as the jazz album the singer deserves -- and of which he's still capable.

Al Jarreau performs at Chastain Park Amphitheatre Fri., Aug. 27, 8 p.m. $24.40-$57.57.

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