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Artist Profiles

Jimmy Scott: Counting His Blessings

By Published: February 20, 2008
About their sessions Barkan says, "I've produced a lot of recordings. ...Nobody in the whole world of jazz music or modern music for that matter sings with any more heart and soul than Jimmy Scott. Nobody! ...He's had a profound influence on popular music that isn't discussed a lot. He had an influence on Jackie Wilson, which in a way had a profound impact on Michael Jackson. ...He is the poet laureate of the heart. He opens his heart and his music comes out."

Jimmy ScottSo why hasn't he achieved greater fame? Barkan observes, ..."A part of it is the media really giving him support. ...His music has an intensity and an uncompromising idiosyncratic core that is not necessarily for everybody. ...He's just a man of such uncompromising honesty and intensity in his music. And that's not necessarily pop pablum. He has a very devoted fan base and audience. Every great artist is not necessarily a mass appeal. They did a magnificent job with All The Way. That was his second coming in terms of any kind of popular appeal. He's an artist of lasting import and enduring relevance—one of the giants of jazz singing. But you should point out that Billy Eckstine [also] felt he never achieved the proper level of public acceptance. So male jazz singers have that cross to bear and have had that over the years."

Barkan, who's hoping to record with him again, recalls a comment guitarist Joe Beck made during the Milestone sessions. "He said one thing that was extremely revelatory about Jimmy Scott musically. 'When you're traveling with Jimmy Scott you have to have musical patience and faith.' It was echoed by Grady Tate and Cyrus Chestnut, as we were just sitting in awe of how he approaches a vocal." Expressing awed admiration Barkan continues, ..."You start at one musical intersection with him, traveling down this musical road with him. He may turn into an alley, down another street, around another park and back in another alley and he's still going to arrive at the next major intersection at exactly the same time you are. You might not see him for a second. But you can't rush. You just gotta have faith in time that he's going to be there with you. Because he's so free, so emotionally unfettered and he's swingin' all the way! It's never in a corny, obvious way. But, he's doing it his own way. That's what makes him the great artist he is. ...He may never achieve what Ella did in terms of reaching the masses of people, but the people he does reach he touches every bit as deeply as Ella or Sarah or any great singer."

Scott's musical director and bassist for nearly twenty years, Hill Greene, regularly accompanies him with his group, The Jazz Expressions. He calls Jimmy "the most open artist as far as letting people that are with him develop their own way. ...He's certainly steeped in jazz. ...He also grew up singing lots of gospel music. ...And then he's also really listened and hung out with other major musicians. Milt Jackson, Charlie Parker—people of that caliber. ...I continually have enthusiasm to work with him. ...He's got a way about him that evokes something special out of people."

"A joy and [to] share the experience of the music," is what Scott says he wants for his listeners. .."And if they do that it will be because my love for the audience and the music will have an equal standing in my life. And I hope it will have the same in their life. Uh huh. ...I'll never give up, baby. I can't think of giving it up. Uh uh."

Selected Discography

Jimmy Scott, Live in Tokyo (Venus, 2003)

Jimmy Scott, Mood Indigo (Milestone, 2000)

Little Jimmy Scott, The Savoy Years and More (Savoy, 1999)

Jimmy Scott, Dream (Sire/Warner Bros., 1994)

Jimmy Scott, All The Way (Sire/Warner Bros., 1992)

Little Jimmy Scott, Falling in Love is Wonderful (Tangerine/Rhino, 1962)

Photo Credit

Ben Johnson


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