I’ve surprised many friends over the years by saying that Cindy Scott’s debut album from 2002, Major to Minor, is my favorite album by a local woman singer. This is problematic for some, since 1) Scott is not from here and 2) her back-up band on this album is from Houston.
Scott’s second disc, the locally recorded Let the Devil Take Tomorrow, is certainly in the ballpark with that auspicious debut. And some of the credit must go to another outsider, the rhapsodic pianist Vadim Neselovskyi, who held the piano chair in last year’s version of the Thelonious Monk Institute band.
Nevertheless, this album triumphs because of Scott’s strengths. She has the serious jazz chops that enable her to improvise on a dime on whatever chord changes are thrown her way. Her jazzistic tendency to transform material manifests here on a de-tangofied “Kiss of Fire,” (with a cool Brian Seeger guitar solo), a spookily transformed Hank Williams tune, “I Can’t Help It,” and a nicely strutting take on Smokey Robinson’s “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me.” Even tunes that are performed with “appropriate” grooves (like “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”) sound fresh because she throws in vocal ideas from outside the genre.
Scott was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and has lived all over the south. The country, blues and pop she grew up listening to all show up in her music. She has that “cry,” that heart-tugging thing that even good jazz singers can’t cop. This type of originality is increasingly hard to find.