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Shirley Scott: Soul Sister

Derek Taylor By

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Like the larger Jazz universe of which it was a part, the soul jazz scene of the 60s was a male-dominated musical milieu. Any female presence was often confined to a vocalist’s role. Shirley Scott was one of the few instrumentalists who broke through these circumscribed boundaries and thrived as both a popular and technically accomplished organist. But rather than harp on her transcendence of the gender politics that still plague Jazz today perhaps it’s better to focus on what made her so successful in the first place, her deeply soulful touch at the keys.

Scott was a master at the art of weaving a layered groove. Shedding the florid sounds favored by many of her peers Scott developed a voice on the B-3 that emphasized subtlety and texture, but never at the expense of drive and momentum. Her frequent team-ups with her husband Stanley Turrentine resulted in some of the finest sessions of the saxophonist’s career. This particular two-fer collects two quartet sessions recorded during her successful tenure on the Prestige label. The first matches Scott with Burrell, one of the greatest guitarists ever to grace the organ combo idiom and the two definitely make the most of their brief association. All of the pieces radiate an undeniable groove and smolder with a laid-back, smoky spark. Miles Davis’ “Solar” and the group’s leisurely reading of “Stormy Monday” are easy examples of the kind of demulcent target the four are aiming for and hit routinely with a bullseye. Nothing is rushed and everything is on the mark.

The second session isn’t as universally prosperous due mainly to the presence of Winchester’s vibes, which often sound reticent with their place in the ensemble. Scott on the other hand sounds right at home and in her element churning out gorgeously sustained lines against a supple rhythmic background of bass and drums. The presence of bassists on both sessions is worth noting not only because of the caliber of men on hand (Khan and Duvivier were two of the finest, if lesser-known, string technicians around), but also because their attendance frees up Scott’s attention from her pedals and allows her to focus on the keys. The compositional fare is of a similarly sumptuous stature and the four approach the tunes with enthusiasm. The result is a repast that feeds not only the soul, but the hips and feet as well.

Track Listing: Trav

Personnel: Shirley Scott- organ; Lem Winchester- vibes; Kenny Burrell- guitar; Eddie Khan- bass; George Duvivier- bass; Otis Finch- drums; Arthur Edgehill-drums.

| Record Label: Prestige Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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