No singer in jazz or popular music can convey heartache and loss with the conviction of Jimmy Scott. Then again, few have endured the struggles and overcome the challenges that the Cleveland native with the inimitable soprano has faced over his long and remarkable career.
This compilation in Milestone's Profiles series draws from a set of albums Scott recorded for the label over a short span from 2000-01, when he was about 75 and about a decade following his triumphant return to the music scene after years working outside the business. The album focuses on Scott's idiosyncratic, behind-the-beat reading of standards, mostly ballads"Moonglow, "Darn that Dream (featuring a cameo from Wynton Marsalis), "If I Should Lose You, "How Long Has This Been Going On which he interprets with a flair and drama like no one else.
Scott's voice, delicate and nearly feminine, is peerless, maybe not as pure in its eighth decade as it once was, but thoughtful, worldly and wise nonetheless. Even tunes that could sound hackneyed in lesser hands, like "Smile ("Smile though your heart is aching, smile even though it's breaking ), are sung with a poignancy and sincerity that make you pay attention to every word.
With able assistance from an all-star cast that includes Cyrus Chestnut, Renee Rosnes, Grady Tate, Hank Crawford and David "Fathead Newman (who delivers a searing sax solo on a heartrending version of "Strange Fruit ), Scott delivers a virtual master class in the art of jazz singing. And he's still out there on the road at the age of 81don't miss him!
Track Listing: Smile; Moonglow; Mood Indigo; Without A Song; Darn That Dream; Pennies From Heaven;
Strange Fruit; How Long Has This Been Going On; If I Should Lose You; Please Send Me
Someone To Love.
Personnel: Jimmy Scott: vocals; Eric Alexander, Hank Crawford: saxophone; Joe Beck: guitar; Cyrus
Chestnut, Renee Rosnes: piano; Gregoire Maret: harmonica; Wynton Marsalis: trumpet;
George Mraz: bass; Grady Tate: drums; others.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.