Marilyn Scott's latest album, Standard Blue, can be described with one word: deep. A devotee of the music that surrounded her coming up through the ranks of heavy influence in the Bay Area’s coolest dives (the Fillmore), heavy on the blues, Scott tries to embrace the emotional depths of nine standards and one original offering.
Backed by a sterling crowd of jazz-fusion session players and stars (Russ Ferrante, Jimmy Haslip, Gary Novak, Michael Landau, Ambrose Akinmusire, Bob Mintzer), Scott mostly succeeds in breaking through the zombified air of the standard standards every other singer croons through with very little understanding of origin, place, and reach.
Scott tries her best to sing in a non-standard bluesy manner (hence, the album title) with tunes that move her, that fit her musical leanings, and that do more than sound pretty.
She’s had plenty of practice, enjoying a modicum of popularity since embarking on a career as a background singer to the stars, making her mark in 1977 with a Billboard Hot 100 single, a cover of Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows.”
Standard Blue is her 11th album, the first she’s done as a solo artist since 2008’s Every Time We Say Goodbye.
“The selection of the musicians and a direction of mood made me take a very progressive approach on this recording. It’s simple, with blues overtones and open jazz arrangements,” Scott said in a press release from Two for the Show Media. “I love these songs and I found a way to put them comfortably together. How to grow and embrace all these styles I love and present them in jazz music is the future. As musicians we need avenues to create and play our compositions, new avenues to explore old and new music alike.”
Her voice is nice and even, neither operatic or quirky. She’s no Broadway belter or whispery willow, but right there in the middle. The musicians she chose for this album rise to the occasion, filling in the spaces, setting the mood appropriately, with luxurious indulgence.
“Never Let Me Go” becomes even more attractive with the piano (Ferrante) angling against the melodic grain, pushing a hefty tension in the love-torn mood.
“Blue Prelude” scintillates off the sweet surrender of guitar (Landau) and piano, even when Scott’s voice cannot sustain the hold at times.
“I’ve Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good” exposes the soft spots in Scott’s voice that the Steely Dan guitar flickers can’t brush away completely.
“These songs needed a distant, sad, open feel,” Scott explained of her choices. “All I had to do was talk about it a little and everybody got it. We’ve all seen life — the happiest and the saddest of times — so it all made sense. The lyrics reached everybody and they each brought their own history to it. We cut four songs the first day and another six on the second. I choose material by what the song is saying and the way the song moves me. How it lives next to my music and does it say something that fits into that message?”
Marilyn Scott's Standard Blue comes out this spring.
Artist quotes from Two for the Show Media.