01 December 2005

Jimmy Scott - again

I've blogged on Jimmy Scott before but a recent purchase of three more CDs boosts my enthusiasm for his artistry to new heights. I've realised that he does two things which seem to be quite contradictory - but which are not. He re-invents or reconstructs songs, and yet at the same time he pays tribute to the great American song tradition in an act of deep homage. When he sets out a lyric, the whole melody is shifted by his manner of re-phrasing, of using different notes from the same chords (that's why he's a jazz singer) and of course by using his famous laid-back timing. Sometimes you glance at the CD case to check if it's the song you thought it was. His emotional commitment is competely undeniable. He sings as if the last breath of his voice depends upon the meaning of the lyric. And like other great musicians, his taste is impeccable. There is nothing schmaltzy, cliched, or vulgar here - no Mack the Knife a la Ella Fitzgerald. This is on a par with Sarah Vaughn's Send in the Clowns or Johnny Hartman's They Say It's Wonderful with John Coltrane.

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