Teaming Scott and the American classic songbook was a stroke of brilliance. His renditions of Irving Berlin, Sammy Kahn, and others from the canon are inspired. Opening with Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," Scott sets the tone. Backed by Hank Crawford, Cyrus Chestnut, George Mraz and Grady Tate, he takes the tune to almost symphonic heights with the force of his vocals. Duke Ellington's title piece is given two distinct readings. The first, with the previously mentioned quartet, is a lush and enchanting arrangement from Robert Sadin, that benefits from exquisite accompaniment from pianist Chestnut, especially. The closing starkly arranged reprise teams him with Joe Beck on alto guitar.
"Imagination," from the Burke-Van Heusen songbook, features the phenomenal Swiss harmonica virtuoso, Gregoire Maret, joining the quartet, while "How Deep Is The Ocean?" sees Maret in tandem with pianist Michael Kanan, bassist Hilliard Greene and drummer Victor Jones. On both, Scott stretches his reach and cajoles notes from places many singers have never visited. As is the case throughout, he is a master of phrasing, of nuance and of timing. "There Will Never Be Another You" is a personal favorite, though there is nothing resembling a clinker here.
Though the concentration is on his beautiful balladry, there is a joy that colors this disc. Jimmy Scott has been well regarded for decades, but this may be the most simpatico collection of his career. Todd Barkan's production seems to be mostly about getting out of the singer's way and letting him do what he does best. The result is nothing less than magic.