Jimmy Scott @ JALC, posted February 24, 2008 at 12:02 PM
I went to hear Jimmy Scott at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Friday night. Jimmy is amazing, though greatly diminished from the singer I heard just two years ago. He can no longer walk, and sang from his wheel chair. It took a couple of songs for him to warm up, and when he did he sounded really great. His rhythm and emotional instincts are completely intact--it's only his voice that is a bit weak and unstable. He is, after all, 82 years old. The songs were well chosen. He did sing one of my favorites--Day by Day, an optimistic song that always seems to have a twinge of sadness to it, no matter who sings it. But in the voice of someone so old that bittersweet quality really shines. Similarly, when he sang Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child the song morphed from a slavery-era political spiritual into a personal prayer of someone preparing to meet his maker. The arrangement of that one was a slow-burning mix of contrasting dynamics, with his band and especially his drummer--Dwayne "Cook" Broadnax--driving the sing's emotional impact ever forward. Here's a video of him singing this song a few years ago at Birdland:
This was my first experience of Jazz at Lincoln Center, which recently found a permanent home in the Time Warner Center. They've got three main performing venues, plus a recording studio, a jazz hall of fame, an education center, and the "atrium" which connects them all. Jimmy Scott performed in The Allen Room, a small venue looking out through a huge glass wall at the Columbus Circle, Central Park, and the buildings along Fifth Avenue. It's a pretty dramatic setting for listening to music--we'd had a big snowfall that day so the park and the Circle were particularly beautiful all decked out in white, lights shimmering, with yellow cabs circling through. I liked the hall, though I thought the artrium area of the JALC complex that links the various spaces was a bit cold, almost like going to hear a concert at a convention hall. I'm curious to see the other venues, but as someone who has a rather limited interest in jazz I suspect it may take many more years before I experience all of them.