Monday, January 23, 2017

Jimmy Scott I Go Back Home

Jimmy Scott
I Go Back Home
Eden River Records

Jimmy Scott's career was one of great frustration as for years he was bound to an onerous recording contract with the result that in his prime years, his musical career was stifled. Fortunately starting in the 1980s, Scott's fortune changed. He was amongst the early recipients of the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. Still, despite the efforts of his friends like the late Doc Pomus, it wasn't until a record company exec saw Scott sing at Pomus' funeral that he was signed to a record label. As one close to Doc Pomus noted in the film, "AKA Doc Pomus", it took Pomus to f****ng die for Jimmy Scott to get a recording contract. Fortunately we were blessed with many memorable recordings that displayed his unique vocal styling.

This new album was recorded prior to Scott's passing in 2014 and was the result of the desire of German producer Ralf Kemper to produce Scott, that this elaborate production occurred. Mixed by the late Phil Ramone, Scott is joined by a number of collaborators including Bossa nova icon Oscar Castro-Neves and legendary saxophonist James Moody, both of whom themselves passed away after their contributions to this recording. Scott is wonderfully backed on many songs by drummer Peter Erskine, the great pianist Kenny Barron and organist and trumpet player Joey DeFrancesco. Jazz icon Dee Dee Bridgewater joins Scott on "For Once in My Life," while vocalist Monica Mancini and trumpet master Arturo Sandoval are on "I Remember You," while several tracks have lush orchestrations played by the HBR Studio Symphony Orchestra.

This album is clearly a labor of love from the producer but one would be hard pressed to call this among Scott's finest works. Scott was among the most singular singers whose phrasing, timing and pitch could wring emotion out of what would sound like cliches when sung by lesser vocalists. Yet there are passages here when his vocals sound a tad frayed. Still his ability to move the listener is evident on the opening "Motherless Child," enhanced by Joey DeFrancesco's organ. On "Easy Living" his vocal is half-spoken with a fine DeFrancesco solo. The bossa nova "Love Letters" is an appealing vocal duet with Oscar Castro-Neves who contributes his guitar along with his vocal in Portuguese, while Dee Dee Bridgewater joins Scott for a duet of Stevie Wonder's "For Once In My Life," with James Moody contributing a terrific tenor sax solo.

Furthermore, some of the other performances another singer is at the fore such as Monica Mancini's marvelous featured vocal on "I Remember You," which also has the with the guitar of Oscar Castro-Neves in the accompaniment and with Sandoval's trumpet. On "Someone to Watch Over Me" (perhaps a song he is most identified with), Scott provides a brief spoken introduction before Renee Olstead sings the vocal in an attractive understated manner. There are two duets with actor Joe Pesci that are among the high points of this recording. Kenny Barron's piano is noteworthy on "The Nearness of You," where Pesci both shows Scott's influence in his approach as well as complements Scott.

There is plenty of poignancy throughout, including the closing "Poor Butterfly," with Gregoire Maret's wistful harmonica, but Scott himself shows his years and perhaps health issues. If one was looking for an introduction to Jimmy Scott, there would be other recordings that one would recommend before this. This is more a recording for those who are already fans of him, and wish to hear his last musical testament, that is wonderfully played even if it has some flaws.

I received for review a download from a publicist. Here is Dee Dee Bridgewater behind the scenes for "For Once in My Life."

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