Jazz it up
“I allow myself to be eclectic, more than I ever did before. At this point in my life, I have a clearer understanding of who I am, and I’m not afraid of it anymore.”
New Orleans jazz vocalist Cindy Scott sings the great material she draws from eclectic genres with abundant warmth and almost childlike playfulness. She compensates for what her voice may lack in power through verbal and musical nimbleness, subtle expressivity and the occasional, and therefore more effective, vocal glissando.
For “Historia,” her third album, Scott, a natural vocalese performer, adds lyrics to bebop giants Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie’s “Shaw ’Nuff” and delivers fresh interpretations of standards by Cole Porter and Jerome Kern. She also goes Brazilian with “O Silêncio das Estrelas,” sings the Southern soul ballad “It’s Gonna Be Okay” (written by Anders Orborne and the late Nashville songwriter Joshua Ragsdale) and both sings and plays flute for a beautiful rendition of the American folk song “Shenandoah.”
Scott’s “Historia” is the first album to be recorded at the recently opened Esplanade Studios in New Orleans. Her collaborators included local musicians Brian Seeger, guitar; Evan Christopher, clarinet; Shannon Powell, percussion; Portland pianist Randy Porter, New York bassist Dan Loomis and Scott’s New York-based singer-pianist friend, Karrin Allyson.
Seeger, Porter, Loomis and New Orleans drummer Johnny Vidacovich will accompany Scott Sunday during her album release show at Snug Harbor in New Orleans.
A native of Tupelo, Miss., Scott grew up with parents who were both school band directors and gifted musicians. She attended LSU on a flute scholarship but graduated with a degree in German language and literature and then earned an MBA in international business.
After working for years in project controls overseas, in Houston and Baton Rouge, Scott had enough of the corporate world.
“I didn’t fit in there and I was really miserable,” she said last week on the way to a rehearsal. “The people were lovely, but I came home crying every day. I was so crawling out of my skin. That was the first chapter of my life.”
Scott, having already released her first album and been a regular jazz performer in Houston, decided to leave business. She and her husband, Bill Fernandez, joined the cast the TBS reality series, “House Rules.” After they won the do-it-yourself, 100-day remodeling competition in 2003, Scott and her husband began considering a move to Louisiana.
In January 2005, the couple moved to New Orleans and she entered UNO as a music graduate student. Despite the massive interruption of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flood eight months later, the city became the place where Scott could grow artistically and be a working musician.
“I sort of apologized for my eclecticism for a long time,” she said. “I know that I’m a jazz singer, because that’s how my brain works and that’s what I want to do. But I don’t always want to sing jazz standards. And my audience doesn’t always eat and drink jazz, but they love my shows, because I do a bunch of different things. So now I allow myself to be eclectic more than I ever did before. At this point in my life I have a clearer understanding of who I am and I’m not afraid of it anymore.
In the latter respect, being in New Orleans was a great help.
“If the music’s good, nobody really cares what you do here,” Scott said. “There’s a lot of marrying of genres in New Orleans. So when I moved here and I realized that I had the freedom to do that, it was like, ‘Oh, this is so much fun. I want more of this.’ ”