Jazz vocals as varied as the Summer winds are filling the air in Philadelphia over the next few weeks.
ZANZIBAR BLUE brought back the legendary Little Jimmy Scott over the Aug. 19 weekend. He told us just recently, "I love Philly; it is one of my special places to play." His life story reads like bad luck blues starting early on with being left off the credits for his recording of "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" with Lionel Hampton and "Embraceable You" with Charlie Parker. He ended up working as a dishwasher, hotel elevator operator and nurse's aide with his career not taking off until he was in his 60's. His recording of "All the Way" in 1992 was nominated for a Grammy and he has some 15 albums now. His singing style and voice have an uncanny, ethereal quality that has mesmerized listeners for half a century. Backing him in this set, indeed sharing the stage with him was a first class jazz group headed by T.K. Blue on flute and tenor sax with fine piano by Aaron Graves. Just some of the numbers Scott went trhough included, "Blue Skies," When Did you Leave Heaven," "Everybody Loves Somebody" and "Embraceable You." He said the last one was the one that got him married.
Zanzibar Blue, Broad and Walnut Streets, 215.732.4500, Aug. 19-21, 8-10 p.m., Friday & Saturday, 7&9 p.m. Sunday, $30 on Friday& Sunday, $35 on Saturday, Little Jimmy Scott.
THE MANN CENTER has the distinctive, almost eerie, soul stylings of the Rev. Al Green next week. Overtones of his gospel singing are ever-present even in later R&B blues songs where he made his name. Like Scott, he had a lifetime of bad luck blues experience ranging from a girl friend pouring hot grits on him and later falling offstage during a performance. He told us he feels good about playing the Mann and being in Philadelphia. "It's fantastic, Philadelphia is in the clouds, where they know what's happening and we're coming in prepared." He will be with The Four Tops. He will be doing some of the new pieces from his recently released CD, Everything's O.K. Just some of the songs he said he would be doing include such favorites as "Still In Love," "I can't Stop Loving You," "Everything's Going to Be All Right" and "Amazing Grace."
Reflecting on his gospel orientations, he said, "The influence is incredible, I can't come up with a blues song without coming up gospel, If you just look from the physical standpoint, it comes from the church where they all have been." Personal favorites he listed were Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Sam Cook and Mahalia Jackson, of whom he said, "She was just so incredible, with all this pouring out of her, this gospel voice." He told us, "When we come there on stage you'll see what we are making all this fuss about...not gonna preach to you, but we will get the house rockin and rollin real good."
The Mann Center for Performing Arts, 5201 Parkside Ave., 730 p.m.,Thursday, Aug., 25, $56-46, The Rev. Green.
CHRIS' JAZZ CAFE is featuring the Afro-British-Caribbean jazz stylings of Tessa Souter, a Mark Murphy protégé. Her distinctive jazz stylings and new CD Listen Love have been gaining rave reviews worldwide. This will be her Philly debut with guitarist John Hart.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.