27 May 2010


Something completely different this time around. There’s not going to be any music in this post, so if that’s what you’re here for, come back another time. I’ll do another one of those posts in a couple days.

Ever since my days working at a record store, back in the nineties, I’ve occasionally come up with an idea for an album that I think would be really interesting to create. Once, one of these ideas actually came into existence (someone with real connections apparently had the same idea), and reminded me that sometimes the idea can be better than the results. My idea in that case was to have modern alternative bands cover old Schoolhouse Rock songs. A couple years later, Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks (buy) Was issued, and apart from a couple of tracks, was a total snooze-fest. Most of the covers just seemed really uninspired. Like the bands were doing it for publicity, rather than because they liked the songs.

So, anyway, I’ve had this other idea kicking around in my head for some time, but of course I have no connections within the industry, so there isn’t any chance of me doing anything with it. But since I do have this music blog, I may as well toss it up here, and at least get it out of my own head and into the collective ethers of the internet.

Here’s the idea: First you get Jimmy Scott, the legendary jazz singer (that’s him in the pic, if you haven’t guessed). Now, not everyone is going to be familiar with Jimmy, and that’s the big shame, so here’s how we fix that. Line up a heaping helping of the most acclaimed, and most well known, song writers in the industry today. I’m talking about the likes of Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Elvis Costello (particularly if you can get him together with Burt Bacharach again), perhaps a Bono (yeah, I’m not a huge fan of the recent U2 output, but the man has written some great tunes in the past), or a Springsteen (great writer, not sure how he'd do with the jazz style) and maybe Paul Kelly (the Aussie, not the American blues guy, though he might be good, too).

Add in some lesser-known, but equally talented writers like Barry Adamson, Gavin Friday, Ray Lamontagne, Glen Hansard . . .and probably a whole lot more that aren’t coming to mind right this second.

Now have all these folks write songs specifically for Jimmy to sing. I’m not talking about having him do jazz version of their pop/rock/alternative songs (that was done on Holding Back the Years, which many people didn’t like, though I thought it turned out great), I would want them to write specifically for him, in his style. Many of the folks I mentioned are already fans of Jimmy, and so should be able to write some excellent music in his unique style.

Next up, get Jimmy into the studio with his own band, the Jazz Expressions. Many times in the past, labels have put him in the studio with a batch of good musicians that he hadn’t worked with before, and that has made for some uncomfortable recording situations. If you’ve heard the way Jimmy delivers his vocals, you can understand why musicians who aren’t familiar with him may not know how to react the first time they hear him. I had originally thought of bringing in a big name producer, like Rick Rubin, to oversee the sessions, but it may be best to let Jimmy decide that bit, too.

My idea for keeping some of the costs down is fairly simple. In exchange for keeping the songwriting fees down to the bare minimum, you allow the various musician/writers to come into the studio and play the instrument of their choice on each of the songs they wrote for the project. I wouldn’t want vocal duets, the vocal spotlight should remain on Jimmy. Just give them the opportunity to be in the studio with Jimmy while he records their song.

The rest should be simple. Market it as a traditional jazz vocal album by Jimmy Scott, and push the pedigree of the songwriters -emphasizing that all the songs were written specifically for Jimmy to record.

So there you have it. That’s the idea. And if anyone out there has the proper contacts and runs with it, all I ask is that you get me a plane ticket and a hotel room, so that I can attend the recording sessions, sitting quietly in the back, and maybe snap a few pictures.

One parting remark. . . If you haven’t already experienced a Jimmy Scott record (or better yet, a show), do yourself a favor and hunt something down. I couldn’t possibly describe his vocals in words, they have to be experienced.

Here's some of 'em you can still get:

Very Truly Yours, 1955 (buy remaster)
Falling In Love is Wonderful, 1963 (buy import)
The Source, 1969 (buy re-issue)
All The Way, 1992 (buy) (an excellent starting point, if you're unfamiliar with him)
Dream, 1994 (buy)
Holding Back the Years, 1998 (buy)
Mood Indigo, 2000 (buy)
Over the Rainbow, 2001 (buy)
But Beautiful, 2002 (buy)
Moon Glow, 2003 (buy)
All of Me: Live in Tokyo, 2004 (buy)

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