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JAZZ REVIEW : Jimmy Scott's Reverberations of the Past at Catalina

July 21, 1994|DON HECKMAN

How do you figure the return of Jimmy Scott? Moderately successful in the '50s, his eclipse from the popular music scene stretched over nearly three decades before he--like Tony Bennett--was embraced by a new generation of listeners.

But his eccentric singing style hasn't changed a bit. Tuesday night, in the opening set of a weeklong run at Catalina, Scott devoted most of his material, which included songs such as "All Of Me" and "All the Way," to the excruciatingly slow tempos and passionately declamatory interpretations that have been his specialty since the beginning of his career.

As with Bennett, Scott's singing is less an expansion and further exploration of classic styles than a kind of reverberating echo from the past. Traces of Johnny Ray's theatricality, Roy Brown's ardent gospelisms and Elmore James' plaintive vocalizing drifted through Scott's readings, modified and personalized by his own unique emphasis upon the storytelling qualities of the lyrics.

Scott's backup trio of longtime associates Ken Itchi Shimazu on piano, Hilliard Green on bass and Brian Kirk on drums added much needed rhythmic contrast and shading.

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