CD Review: Mansur Scott Harlem Quartet. Sometimes Forgotten, Sometimes Remembered (Pao Records, 2010).
Vocalist/percussionist extraordinaire Mansur Scott, known all over New York City as a serious sage and “the jazz mayor of Harlem” is the epitome of a working jazz musician. He has been on the front lines, pushing the music forward, making it visible, boldly, and making it strongly heard throughout all of the boroughs of the city for decades. He is known in Harlem’ s jazz community as a warm, peaceful, graceful, adventurous, humble performer, who has been on most of the stages in the jazz spots, especially uptown like St. Nick’s Pub.
It was at an appearance at St. Nick’s, years ago. when he collapsed on stage after a demanding schedule, one that included performing two or three events a day. He had a heart attack and later a stroke which he thought would end his career. He had just reached a point in show business where he thought things were finally on the up--with appearances off-Broadway and subbing for the late legendary vocalist Leon Thomas when Thomas became ill. Scott said that he was performing as a stand-in for Thomas, the night he died. After his stroke, Scott rehabilitated himself, resumed his career, tours extensively in Europe and has recorded his first recording called quite appropriately: Sometimes Forgotten, Sometimes Remembered.
This is a highly-personal and autobiographical CD that reaches out and grabs listeners and takes them on a journey that is so pleasurable and real that you never want to stop playing it. Scott’s voice, which some describe as a mix of the great Joe Williams, of the fantastic Count Basie big bands of the 1940s and the 1950s; and the late Coltrane disciple, soulful singer, Leon Thomas; is powerful, raw, and spiritual. It has a sense of urgency with it that captures the essence of any moment. This is especially true with the very upbeat, sharp and swinging treatment he gives “Days Of Wine and Roses,” where his straight ahead vocals are quite acrobatic, daring, defying gravity. The “Days” is definitely one of the best tunes on the album, not only because it swings mightily, but because it is tenderly, touchingly, dedicated to his late beloved wife “Sabra.“
Sometimes Forgotten, Sometimes Remembered features several standards that Mansur Scott does his own superb way. “Nature Boy” and the bouncy, groovy “Miss Otis Regrets” are stunning, as is the nice interpretation he gives “Song For My Father.” But is a relatively obscure composition written by the late Baltimore vocalist/songwriter, Bus Brown,
called “When The Lady Sings,” that is as good as it gets, weaving a story within a story. Scott is a master at bending the phrases and pleasing the listener with a voice that is a perfect mood setter. “Lady” is dedicated to Billie Holiday aka Lady Day, and has been recorded only once since the late 1970s. Mansur has used it on the stage for several years and included it here as a tribute to his mentor, friend, Bus Brown, who was living and performing in Durham North Carolina, when the two met. This thought-provoking, smooth update is a wonderful way to honor both the well-known Lady Day, and the journeyman Bus Brown, who recently passed at age 99 and a half. This is another clear-cut example of Scott’s humility and modesty, and is also a song that cries out for hope, telling the story of how to become a survivor.
Mansur’s selection of excellent musicians is what helps make this (Sometimes) recording so special. The pianist, the much-in-demand Carlton Holmes, has long been known as an original, earthy soloist and a polished member of a rhythm section. Wayne Batchelor, the bassist, is a well-traveled London native, who always supplies the right balance between vocalist and bass. The drummer on the CD is the durable, youthful, Max-like, Marc Johnson, whose work seems to be highly inspired by Mansur’s voice. What a balance! In fact, the entire album is about balance in life, about how we make sense of it all, to take the good with the bad. It seems to say that “Sometimes Forgotten. Sometimes Remembered” is a must-listen-to masterpiece that helps the listener realize that life is short and bittersweet, and as Mansur almost shouts on “Days”
it “runs away like a child at play.”
Larry Reni Thomas
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