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Sometimes Forgotten, Sometimes Remembered
Mansur Scott Harlem Quartet

Biographical details for vocalist Mansur Scott are hard to come by, and even a 13-minute interview viewable on You Tube is more philosophical than informational. One thing very certain, however, is that Scott is a powerful and personable veteran jazz singer who deserves to have more than just this one CD on his resume as a leader. Released in 2010 on Austrian trombonist Paul Zauner's PAO label, this excellent recording is now available in North America thanks to Blujazz. Scott sings mostly standards plus tributes to Billie Holiday and John Coltrane, backed sensitively by the trio of pianist Carlton Holmes, bassist Wayne Batchelor, and drummer Marc Johnson. Scott grew up in Harlem and was dubbed "the jazz mayor of Harlem" due to his frequent activities there. In May of 1999, Scott was subbing at a club for fellow singer Leon Thomas on the day Thomas died of heart failure. Scott himself subsequently endured a heart attack (and later a stroke) while performing at St. Nick's Pub. Upon recovery, Scott toured Europe extensively, occasionally playing with Zauner's Blue Brass group, and Sometimes Forgotten, Sometimes Remembered could be considered his "comeback" CD were it not in fact his long overdue debut.

The opener, "This Masquerade," will draw the inevitable comparisons to Little Jimmy Scott's take on this tune, and Mansur's phrasing is certainly influenced by Jimmy's, but clearly in a personalized way. Mansur's voice is deeper, but his delivery is just as emotional and moving as Jimmy's. The trio's support is tight and highly complementary, and Holmes' lyrically rippling solo is a work of art in itself. Batchelor's resoundingly dramatic intro to "Nature Boy" evokes Jimmy Garrison, and his ostinato and Holmes' focused attack create a modal framework. Scott's presentation is remindful here of Joe Lee Wilson, in what Wilson called "throwing his voice," as well as the adamant repetition of key phrases. Holmes' solo and comping cavort in McCoy Tyner territory. Scott's sizzling juggling of the lyrics, including some deft scatting when he reenters, is unrelenting in its determination, before subsiding to a completely satisfying resolution.

Holmes' brightly tranquil prelude sets the stage exquisitely for Scott's heartfelt but robust approach to "The Nearness of You." One can't help but notice his clear enunciation, perfect intonation, and sheer presence and charisma. Batchelor's extended bass solo is melodically compelling, and Johnson's exercise with just mallets is surprisingly effective. For "Miss Otis Regrets," the trio develops an Ahmad Jamal-like swaying rhythmic backdrop for Scott's gripping, sometimes conversational, interpretation of the Cole Porter opus. One strength of a fine singer is the ability to renew or transform a familiar standard, and Scott indisputably does so here. His power and expressiveness again recall Wilson, and also the exuberance of Billy Paul, Leon Thomas, and Joe Williams to some extent. "In a Sentimental Mood" finds Scott in crooner mode, but not without sporadic characteristically fiery outbursts. Holmes' interlude is contemplative but also unpredictable in its twists and turns.

Scott expertly captures the intended spirit of Horace Silver's "Song For My Father," thanks to his passion and attentiveness to the lyrics. Holmes' improv is again absorbing, and Batchelor and Johnson gracefully sustain the tune's well-known rhythmic patterns. Scott concludes with an appealing scatted coda of sorts. Scott's own composition, "Inspired By John Coltrane," begins with a mixture of percussive effects and eerie dissonant sounds from keyboard, bass, and voice that lasts for over three minutes. The leader finally turns to his spiritual lyrics, revealed in segments broken up by his ongoing abstract vocalizations.

"When The Lady Sings," a tribute to Billie Holiday, was written by Scott's friend and mentor, the late Baltimore vocalist / composer Bus Brown. Scott sings the touching ballad with tender emotion, as the words intersperse titles of songs associated with Lady Day: "Somewhere along the Milky Way, with gardenias in her hair, when The Lady sings, you'll hear the blues." Batchelor's poignant solo, and Holmes' elegantly delineated accompaniment, complete this winning track. Scott dedicated this version of "Days of Wine and Roses" to his late wife Sabra, and introduces the lyrics heartily at an insistent tempo. Holmes prances through his delightful solo, after which Scott takes charge commandingly, varying his design with imagination, and using repetition and changes of pace to get his point across with uninhibited flair.

1 Comment

  • Dec 08, 2013 at 02:15AM Ibrahim Siddiq

    I have had the pleasure to know Mansur Scott personally and actually play with him during my early development and entrance into professional performances. He is truly a talent who has not received the attention and appreciation that is due him. Mansur sings from a depth in his soul and heart that is rarely heard among today's over-packaged artists. Any opportunity to catch a performance by Mansur Scott will be a rare and unforgettable treat. His "Sometimes Forgotten, Sometimes Remembered" CD amazing to say the least. I can hardly wait for a follow up.

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