Jazz Vocals

VOICES Notes and news on Jazz Vocals releases

Little Voice, Big Power

05 AUG 13 ANNE FARNSWORTH

Jimmy Scott is one of the most interesting and unique jazz singers in the world. Born with Kallmann's Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that prevents the onset of puberty, his voice remained pure and child-like when he became an adult while possessing a grown man's strength and power.  Little Jimmy Scott & The Paul Gayten Band's Regal Records: Live In New Orleans, a 1951 live recording that's been remastered in CD format, is a must-have for all Jimmy Scott fans.

Scott's disease kept his height under five feet and he picked up the "Little" nickname. At the age of 37 he grew eight more inches in height. Fortunately the growth spurt didn't affect his voice, though he dropped the "little" moniker.

Classical fans will be familiar with the historical castrati, the countertenor voice that was highly prized for its ethereal, otherworldly sound. Scott is just such countertenor. If you haven't heard him yet, you owe it to yourself to experience it.

But it's not just his vocal quality that sets him apart. Jimmy Scott is one of the most soulful and swinging jazz singers of the 20th century. His rhythmic nuances, back-phrasing and anticipation, along with his tone and vibrato put him in the class of jazz singers like Billie Holliday, Betty Carter and Sarah Vaughan, who were more horn-like in their approach.

Speaking of horns, Scott shares the stage on this recording with two tenor saxmen, Ray Abrams and Sam Butera. Nearly half of the tracks on this release feature the two proto-bop players, most notably in the aptly named "Dueling Tenors." But it's Scott's show, as when he sings "Everybody's Somebody's Fool," which was his first hit when he recorded it a year earlier with the Lionel Hampton Band.

The music on this album has a free wheeling vibe, with Scott opening several of the ballads with a long held note and the band falling in behind him. An enthusiastic audience and a loopy, rhyming emcee add to the general sense of fun and frivolity and will make you wish you were in attendance yourself. Listening to this record is the next best thing to being there.