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May 2003

Jimmy Scott
Falling In Love Is Wonderful
Rhino

For half a century it was the Holy Grail of jazz-vocal albums. Unearthing a copy of Jimmy Scott's Falling in Love Is Wonderful was tantamount to finding a signed first edition of The Catcher In the Rye or unearthing a '69 Yenko Camaro. It was the disc that could've elevated the delicate Cleveland dynamo from cult hero to mainstream star. Pundits speculate that it would have won Scott spots on all the top TV variety shows of the day, engagements in the nation's plushest lounges and a solid recording contract with Ray Charles' ABC-distributed Tangerine label.

But none of that was to be.

When released in 1962, Scott's exquisite collection of ballads ("supervised" by Charles, who doubled as session pianist, with gorgeously misty Marty Paich arrangements) ignited critical raves from coast to coast. But before DJ enthusiasm could translate into actual record sales, the album was gone. Contract disputes with Savoy honcho Herman Lubinsky forced Charles to recall the platter within weeks of its launch. Muddy bootleg reissues have surfaced since, and scratchy tapes have circulated covertly among diehard fans.

Now, after a seemingly interminable wait, Falling in Love has made a tentative CD debut. The limited edition CD can be ordered from Rhino Handmade's Web site, www.rhinohandmade.com. It sells online for $19.98, and is worth 10 times that. Free of outtakes or bonus tracks, the disc is an undiluted replica of the original, right down to the cheesy cover art. There are only 10 tracks. Each is sublime, capturing Scott at the height of his fragile power. His trademark tearfulness transforms traditionally upbeat fare like "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," "They Say It's Wonderful" and "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" into passionate pleas for personal contentment (a condition that has eluded Scott through much of his bumpy life.) Elsewhere, such genuine heartbreakers as "I Wish I Didn't Love You So" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" approach beatific in their anguish.

Rhino Handmade says that only 7,500 copies of Scott's seminal treasure will be pressed. In other words, get it now before you have to wait another 40 years to hear a masterpiece whose majesty rivals John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman and Sinatra's In the Wee Small Hours.

Originally published in May 2003
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