Sadness naturally hovers like a black cloud over life's December days, but hope and joy can often find a way to peak through the overcast skies. That's a message that comes through most clearly on Jimmy Scott's beautiful parting gift to the world. I Go Back Home
manages to serve as swan song, celebration, tribute, soiree, and soundtrack all at once. It brings Scott into contact with an incredible array of musicians while showcasing his inimitable voicea tender, high-pitched instrument born of Kallman syndrome, shaped by life's strange cruelties and bounties, and guided by sincerity.
The playlist and credits make this read like a duets album, with featured guests and singing partners coming and going from track to track, but the tackiness and blatant commercialism that often come with that category of release is never present here. This one is classy all the way through. The best of the best back Scott, providing downy support for his voice without ever drawing much attention away from it, and the resultant music is magnetic.
The album opens on Scott's sorrowful take on "Motherless Child," made all the more poignant when you consider the fact that Scott lost his own mother during his childhood. Organist Joey DeFrancesco
, who appears on multiple tracks, is billed as the featured guest, but don't expect the organ showman who comes with guns blazing. Instead, DeFrancesco serves as the bearer of bluesy touches. That song is followed by "The Nearness Of You," ushered in by a lush introduction from the HBR Studio Symphony Orchestra. Joe Pesci, whose own Scott-esque voice was a marvel to behold on DeFrancesco's Falling In Love Again
(Concord Jazz, 2003), joins his idol for a performance that shifts from gentle beauty to slow flow swing.
As the album continues, one treasure after another emerges. There's a bossa-based take on "Love Letters," graced by Oscar Castro-Neves' voice and guitar; there's a moving "How Deep Is The Ocean," deepened and broadened by Till Brönner's trumpet; there's a balladic take on "For Once In My Life" that pairs Scott with vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater
and features Bob Mintzer
's tenor saxophone; and there's a beautiful return to the past with "Everybody's Somebody's Fool," a performance that has the late James Moody
along for the ride. Scott's voice, on each and every one of those pieces, hits you straight in the heart, serving as a firm reminder that sensitivity and expressiveness are the greatest strength's to be had in the vocal arts.
In addition to those highlights and the rest of Scott's performances, two tribute tracks without him sit in the mix. The first is a Brazilian-based "I Remember You" expertly rendered by vocalist Monica Mancini
and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval
, with sensitive yet buoyant backing from Castro-Neves, bassist Michael Valerio
, drummer Peter Erskine
, and the orchestra. The second, a moving performance of "The Folks Who Live On The Hill" that rests in the penultimate position, finds Pesci walking in Scott's shoes and shadow. Neither one feels out of place here, despite Scott's absence. I Go Back Home
is a musical triumph by any measure, made all the more impressive by the facts surrounding its creation. It's the product of a dream brought to life and it's an album that exists against all odds. Several years before Scott's death, producer Ralf Kemper put his allmoney, time, spirit, and selfinto the idea of making his ideal record with and for Jimmy Scott. Reality, however, intervened. When Kemper connected with Scott, his state of beingwheelchair bound and lacking in good healthnearly derailed the dream. And then there were the difficulties on the financial end and a fruitless search for an interested label to contend with. But Kemper would not be deterred, and the world is all the better for his persistence and Scott's resilience. The full story, for those interested in seeing it, comes to life in director Yoon-ha Chang's documentary detailing the making of the album.
We've often been told that every great fighter has one last fight left in them, and that statement rings true with this one. Jimmy Scott, the quiet fighter who projected the passion of a thousand suns, gives us one more for the ages with I Go Back Home
Track Listing: Motherless Child; The
Nearness Of You; Love
Letters; Easy Living;
Someone To Watch Over Me;
How Deep Is The Ocean; If I
Ever Lost You; For Once In
My Life; I Remember You;
Everybody Is Somebody's
Fool; Folks Who Live On The
Hill; Poor Butterfly.
Personnel: Jimmy Scott: vocals; Joey
DeFrancesco: organ (1, 3, 4,
10, 11); Kenny Barron: piano
(1, 2, 5-8, 11, 12);
Martin Gjakonovski: bass
Hans Dekker: drums (1); Joe
Pesci: vocals (2, 11); Michael
Valerio: bass (2-12); Peter
drums (2-12); Oscar Castro-
vocals (3), guitar (3, 6, 9);
Maret: harmonica (3, 4, 12);
Pisano: guitar (4); Renee
Olstead: vocals (5); Till
trumpet (7); Bob Mintzer:
saxophone (8); Monica
vocals (9); Arturo Sandoval:
trumpet (9); James Moody:
saxophone (10); HBR Studio
Title: I Go Back Home: A Story About Hoping And Dreaming
| Year Released: 2016
| Record Label: Eden River Records