Jimmy Scott, vocals – I Go Back Home – Eden River

Jimmy Scott – I Go Back Home – Eden River/Rough Trade ERR-CD-01 63:44 ****:

A stylish turn from a jazz legend.

(Jimmy Scott – vocals, guests; Joey Defrancesco – Hammond B-3; Kenny Barron – piano; Joe Pesci – vocals; Peter Erskine – drums; Oscar Castro Neves – vocal, guitar; George Maret – harmonica; John Pisano – guitar; Renee Olstead – vocals; Till Brönner – trumpet; Dee Dee Bridgewater – vocals; Bob Mintzer – tenor sax; Monica Mancini – vocals; Arturo Sandoval – Flugelhorn; James Moody – sax; HBR Studio Sym. Orch.)

Jimmy Scott, also known as “Little” Jimmy Scott had a high countertenor voice that seemed perfectly designed to interpret ballads and love songs. Diagnosed from birth with Kallmann Syndrome, a genetic disorder that is characterized by a failure to reach puberty. Consequently the sufferer generally remains short in stature, with a voice that has a  pre-pubescent quality.

His early career in the late 1940s was with the Lionel Hampton Band, where he gained some early success as the lead singer on Everybody Is Somebody’s Fool  which he reprises in this 2009 session entitled I Go Back Home. Scott dropped out of the music business from the late 60s until the early 90s when he returned to some prominence with a series of records that found favour with the listening public.

Scott’s voice is something of an acquired taste, as it has something of a constrictive quality, along with much hesitation as he delves into the lyrics. He rarely strays from ballads and love songs, but within that construct he is  emotionally effective. The session leads off with “Motherless Child” a traditional Afro-American spiritual. Scott’s soulful rendition is wonderfully evocative, made all the more so by JoeyDefrancesco’s masterful organ fills.

The fact that the actor Joe Pesci sings might be little known, and also raise a few eyebrows. However he does acquit himself quite well in the two tracks on which he participates.  Firstly he and Scott offer themselves in a duet on ”The Nearness Of You”. The first run through of the number is by Scott, and is framed by his vocal idiosyncrasies and his surprising upper register meanderings. Pesci then picks it up with his take on the lyrics, and it is interesting to hear how closely he sounds like Scott. This is all the more evident on Pesci’s tribute to Scott with his rendition of “Folks Who Live On The Hill”. Joey Defrancesco provides some interesting fills on muted trumpet that adds nicely to Pesci’s interpretation of the tune.

In addition to Scott, each track has a special guest that raises the bar on the interpretation of the number. So whether it is a bold face name such as vocalist  Dee Dee Bridgewater on “ For Once In My Life” or guitarist  Oscar Castro Neves on “How Deep Is The Ocean” or some lesser known artist such as trumpeter Till Brönner on “If I Ever Lost You”, the level of musicianship is first rate.

As mentioned earlier Scott made a splash in the late 1940s with the number “Everybody Is Somebody’s Fool”. His rendition here remains bluesy, but the addition of tenor man James Moody along with the tasty organ of Joey Defrancesco gives the number a particular melancholy feel.

Jimmy Scott died on June 12, 2014 at the age of eighty-eight. According to some discographies, this may have been the last recording session for him. It is a stylish turn from a jazz legend.

TrackList: Motherless Child; The Nearness Of You; Love Letters; Easy Living; Someone To Watch Over Me; 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

—Pierre Giroux

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