Throughout his stellar but erratic career, Jimmy Scott often depended on strangers—influential figures like Ray Charles, Joel Dorn and Todd Barkan were compelled to try and secure for Scott the wider audience he so richly deserved. Last among such heroes was German producer Ralf Kemper, who spent years, and a small fortune, assembling what would prove Scott’s final album, I Go Back Home (which shares its title with a superb “making-of” documentary, presented last year at Austin’s SXSW festival).
Scott, who died in 2014, at age 88, rarely partnered with other artists, which makes this epitaph all the more special. Across multiple recording sessions, Kemper persuaded an array of guests—Dee Dee Bridgewater, Renee Olstead, Monica Mancini, Joey DeFrancesco, James Moody, Oscar Castro-Neves, Kenny Barron, Till Brönner, Grégoire Maret, Arturo Sandoval and actor/singer Joe Pesci, a longtime pal—to participate.
Scott, whose ephemeral, androgynous, snail-paced sound remained little changed across his seven-decade career, is in remarkably fine voice. The playlist is built almost exclusively of his songbook’s cornerstones, and his musical partners are unilaterally respectful, providing gentle accompaniment, keeping the spotlight squarely on Scott. The dozen tracks are stunning testament to his singular artistry. The standout is his revisiting, alongside Moody, of his sole chart hit, “Everybody’s Somebody Fool,” nearly 60 years after it introduced the measured, balladic ache that would so define his rare gift.Originally Published