Jimmy Scott possessed perhaps the most singular voice in jazz. He died in 2014, aged 89, but spoke like a nine-year-old, the result of a rare genetic disorder called Kallman syndrome, which prevented him from experiencing puberty. When he sang it was as though his voice echoed from another century, like a child giving voice to decades of pain.
Scott enjoyed brief success in the late-’40s and ‘50s, but wrangles with his record label cut his career short and forced him to return to Cleveland, where he worked as a hospital orderly. In 1991 he sang at the the funeral of songwriter and longtime friend Doc Pomus, where Lou Reed was among the mourners. Captivated, he invited Scott to appear on his new album and join him on tour.
David Lynch was equally enraptured and Scott appeared as a singing ghost in the finale of Twin Peaks, which won him a new legion of fans and a request to perform at Bill Clinton’s inauguration. His back catalogue, long shelved, suddenly found the light, including the masterpieces Falling In Love Is Wonderful and The Source. Recorded in the 1960s but unpublished until the 1990s, they showcase Scott’s uncanny phrasing – he drew notes out until they felt like they might collapse under the weight of emotion.
In the final years of his life, he revisited those songs in the company of greats from the worlds of bossa nova, jazz and Cuban music, including Oscar Castro-Neves and Joe Moody, both of whom also passed away only months after the recording. The creation of this album, I Go Back Home, was the subject of a documentary of the same name, directed by Yoon-Ha Chang. Both finally give a voice to a singer who was so nearly muted.