Sting may have tried to claim the title, but the King of Pain crown rightly belongs to Jimmy Scott.
Sting may have tried to claim the title, but the King of Pain crown rightly belongs to Jimmy Scott. For decades, Scott has been one of the best ballad singers in jazz, using his preternaturally high-pitched voice to plumb the depths of longing and loss. This latest collection of heartbreakers finds the 76-year-old Scott in peak form, as he enjoys a career comeback that began in the early '90s. He emotes with cabaret-like urgency (and a vibrato that rivals Ethel Merman's), even as the tempos slow to a mournful crawl. The set list is a straight-ahead batch of standards, and the backing band (including guitar great Joe Beck and harmonica ace Grégoire Maret) provides subtle, subdued accompaniment. A handful of tracks lighten the mood with gentle, sprightly swing. But the title track—famous from The Wizard of Oz—sets the tone: Over an ethereal bed of guitar and vibraphone, Scott pleads for a time and place where skies are blue and dreams come true. Also out this week is a reissue of Scott's The Source, which originally came out on Atlantic in 1969 and is now being offered by Label M.—SA