JILL SCOTT / “Rasool”
Jill Scott is arguably the deepest of the neo-soul divas—yeah, I know, what about Erykah? Well, Ms. Badu is undoubtedly way out there—way, way out—but her stuff is not quite as deep as Ms. Scott's, at least not what Badu has commercially recorded. Badu’s new jam is ok, indeed that video for the “Honey” single is conceptually stellar, but over all, Badu’s new studio stuff is more like jelly, still sweet and smooth to spread but a little shakey. Indeed, truth be told, I am not all that crazy about Jill's new studio work, I think it's more deep on the cartharsis (breaking-up drama) and lighter on the art of the music, but see this live jam from Jill, it’s rock solid. Bottom of the ocean, whale-shit deep.
Why I say that? Well cause Jill Scott has done a live show, full of hits, each of them recognizable in the basics of their melodies, but she is reaching for much, much more than a simple recreation of what she has already recorded. For one thing this set is much more jazz-oriented. Hear especially that use of Monk’s “Round Midnight” as a motif in this swinging version of “Golden.” The Jill Scott Live In Paris+ set has both a DVD and a CD in the package. Most of the DVD was recorded in Paris but four bonus tracks were recorded at the House of Blues, Los Angeles. There's also a short video documentary. Just in terms of the amount of good music this is a great deal.
For another thing, Jill is in great voice, and that joy in itself is enough to say, well, alright, gotta get it. That is, if you’re into contemporary R&B that’s real and not some Memorex, trying to sound like the fabled seventies, half-exciting nostalgia trip. The music never would have advanced in the seventies if all the artists from then had spent most of their time recording shit from the fifties and the sixties, which is not to say we should abandon our history. No, cause I’m into sankofa. But it is to say, everything we do don’t have to already been done!
Fanon told us: each generation. You got to find your own groove and do it. The newness of anything/everything is grounded in the realities of its time even as it looks forward to what’s coming. The most truly futuristic shit is that which is down with the advanced edge of what's happening right now! Right now—it's always about the present, always about, even though it may be unknown to us or hidden from us, always about the hippest of what is. There is always some hip, hip things happening (and, no doubt, some reprehensible stuff too) that we need to engage.
Critique and obliterate backwardsnesses, uphold the forward. Step into tomorrow, but the only way to get to tomorrow is by being in touch with what's happening now. If you ain’t up on today, you can’t be down with tomorrow. With this set, Jill Scott proves she knows what time it is.
In addition to the aforementioned "Golden," which is "golden' (bright shinning as a morning star, and especially stunning in how it modulates through different stylistic emphasizes), we also have "The Fact Is," "Rasool" and "He Loves Me." this is the tightest, most versatile band I've heard in a long time on an R&B recording. They cover every thing Jill can think of, from jazz and Latin grooves, to opera and Broadway. I've just changed my mind about the feature number. Originally I was going with this infectiously swinging version of "Golden" but instead let's pick up on Jill's right on, socially conscious, elegy "Rasool." Taken as a whole, nobody else I'm aware of has produced a recording so varied, so serious, so swinging, so funky, so... so "no-comparisons-whatsoever" as is Jill Scott Live In Paris+.
Every time I put this album on, one of the random thoughts that reoccurs is: damn, this is better than I remember it being. And that says a lot about a recording when, even ten or twelve listenings later, it continues to surprise you. You continue to hear a nuance that brings a smile, a wrinkle you missed on the preceding go-rounds.
Do yourself a huge favor, wake up, don’t sleep on getting this because you looked at the track list and said, I already got most of that. Word. Until you get to this, you ain’t really got it!
—Kalamu ya Salaam
Jill's band pulls it off
I'm back home in New Orleans this week, so I'm sitting here with Kalamu checking out these tunes. We were just listening to Jill's band freaking the outro on "He Loves Me." After hearing the way the band seamlessly merges their pop groove with jazzy instrumentation, it occured to me that this is one of the sounds Prince has been trying to get to in recent years. But while a lot of Prince's attempts have sounded a little too self-conscious to actually work, Jill's band pulls it off. A lot of it is because they sound like they're actually having fun. They're damned good musicians, obviously. But they also sound like they aren't worrying about what anybody is going to think and they're not trying to make statements. They're playing, in the literal sense. Just playing, like kids do.
As Kalamu noted, it's also noteworthy that Jill Scott manages to repeatedly re-arrange her material when she performs it live. This is her second live release. A lot of these songs were on the first release as well. But these versions don't sound like the last set of live versions, and neither version sounds much like the studio versions. Jill's also in fine voice, as usual. Listening to her, I'm fairly certain that she could sing circles around any of today's big-money pop divas. That she never so much as tries says a lot about her. She uses her voice in the service of her art, plain and simple. I'm digging it.
—Mtume ya Salaam
This entry was posted on Monday, March 10th, 2008 at 12:08 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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