After Yoshi’s celebrates St. Paddy’s Day with the unlikely Gil-Scott Heron on Mar 16th & 17th, another unique event comes to town the next night. Master Percussionist Babatunde Lea brings an all-star jazz virtuoso quintet feat. vocalist Dwight Trible, saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist/vocalist Patrice Rushen & bassist Gary Brown to town.
The night of March 18th promises to be a musical meeting of the minds @ SF’s Yoshi’s when these 5 veterans hit the stage to celebrate their new CD release ‘Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas’. The album was recorded right here in the Bay Area live at Yoshi’s in 2008 and is a 2 disc tribute to the late ‘spiritual bop’ vocalist Leon Thomas who passed in 1999.
A master balladeer is in town Tues Feb 23rd & Weds Feb 24th, and although he is well past his prime at age 85, and only 4 ft 11” tall, he’s a true giant, and just being in the room with him is well worth the pittance Yoshi’s is charging this week at the door. He is known for infusing songs with so much pathos, pain and beautiful angst it’s hard to take it all in… and if you’ve never heard of him…sadly, you are not alone.
Fortunately, you still have time familiarize yerselves with his saga, and a musical legacy that was obscured by bad business breaks, pride, and deep prejudice, the kind that was not only racial, but sexual & medical …
Almost strangled to death by the umbilical cord at birth in 1925, Jimmy Scott was soon orphaned by a car crash, along with his 9 other siblings in depression era Cleveland. If the odds against him were not bad enough, they were further stacked by a strange genetic pituitary hormonal defect known as “Kallman’s Syndrome”. This medical disorder accounts for his somewhat effeminate looks & unnaturally high singing voice. Basically Scott’s pubescent development was stunted, causing his arms to appear longer than the rest of his torso while the diminutive singer never developed facial hair.
Finding solace away from the bleak foster homes on stages, he sang in combos of the post war R&B era, notably as a featured singer with band leader Lionel Hampton, with whom he made his recorded debut in 1950 (although his name did not appear on the label). After the chart making & touring stint with Hampton ended, Scott began dividing his time between night spots in Cleveland, New York and Newark, New Jersey.
Unable to secure proper record deals, or even respect on the road from fellow musicians due to his androgynous appearance, Jimmy Scott’s show biz career was a hard road. That road hit a brick wall by the late 1960′s when tight fisted Herman Lubinsky of the Savoy label refused to release Scott from a long dormant contract, and legally prevented comeback albums for Atlantic & Ray Charles’ Tangerine label from being released purely out of spite.
Jimmy’s numerous shots at stardom had been so hampered by fiscal mismanagement & bad business dealings, it lead to failed relationships, drinking and drugging, and a career ending downward spiral that took him away from the limelight for decades, until a break finally occurred when he was well into his 60′s.
Strangely enough, it appears death is something he won’t take sitting still, and is actually the catalyst that has brought Jimmy Scott’s career back to life…