Notes on Jill Scott


Just like the woman herself, Jill Scott’s voice is a thing of beauty. She can make it boom and bellow like a gospel-trained diva on “Golden,” and swagger and growl like the blues on “You Don’t Know.” She can make it sound honeyed and soothing like an R&B songbird on “He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat),” and hesitant yet clear-eyed, as if she were talking to herself, on “So Gone (What My Mind Says).” She can do spoken word on “Love Rain,” and rap confidently on Young Jeezy’s “Trapped.” And on Jazzy Jeff’s “We Live in Philly,” she evokes a club girl dreaming up adventures for several delightful minutes, and having visions of local legends like Dr. Julius Erving and Patti LaBelle.

When Scott emerged in 2000 with Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1, many critics favorably compared her virtuoso talent to another neo-soul diva, Erykah Badu. To some, Scott was more warm and accessible, while Badu – who also released an album that year in Mama’s Gun — could seem mannered by comparison. But as time passed, both musicians’ strengths became apparent. Badu is a fearless trickster who brings provocative sounds and ideas to modern soul. Scott usually sticks to the genre’s stock-in-trade of love songs. Ever since the divorce that precipitated 2007’s The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3, she has explored heartbreak, loneliness, and the confusion of short-lasting affairs. She explores matters of the heart with deftness and skill.

Perhaps it’s Scott’s innate warmth that has made her audience stick around while she recedes from the spotlight, sometimes to indulge in multimedia escapades like acting in the recent Get On Up: The James Brown Story, other times just to live life. Her new Woman is only her 5th album in 15 years, and her first in four. If early singles like “Closure” and “You Don’t Know” are any indication, it will be much blustery and funkier than what she’s done before. If it’s anything like her previous work, Woman will be well worth the wait.

(Rhapsody – July 17, 2015)

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