The truly heartwarming resurrection of Jimmy Scott continued at the Catalina Bar & Grill Tuesday and through the rest of this week. At last, his unique, penetrating, high-pitched voice is receiving widespread recognition — and at age 67, enough of it is left to justify much of the belated hype.
Until last year, Scott’s career could have been used as a cautionary tale on why no one should go into the music business. From the late ’40s on, he had been hit by one setback after another — rotten record deals, stiffed payments, vindictive label bosses and personal problems that drove him out of the business for years at a stretch.
Suddenly, Scott began to see daylight when his moving 1992 album “All the Way” for Sire/Warner Bros./Blue Horizon brought him unexpected fame. But has the attention come too late?
True, Scott is a different singer now than when he was young and fresh. No longer can he sustain every note until it ends wrung out and spent. He has acquired a widened vibrato that wobbles dangerously, and his daring experiments with pitch were occasionally off the mark.
But like a pitcher in his twilight days, Scott relied upon guile and experience to put over his collection of standards. He can still draw you into the ballads with that odd, sometimes heartbreaking wail. Right arm stretched dramatically out, eyes closed, his face a half-tortured, half-ecstatic road map, he seemed to believe every word he sang.
Whether at ballad or medium tempos, he tended to sing everything the same way , drawing some notes out as much as he could while using shorter phrases and silence far more effectively than in the past. More than ever, Billie Holiday has a vise-like grip on his soul; “When Did You Leave Heaven?” found Scott doing a faultless impression of Lady Day’s style.