New York-based singer TESSA SOUTER knows vocal legend MANSUR SCOTT well, and previews a very rare London appearance. He is here as a member of GREAT VOICES OF HARLEM, appearing at the Vortex this Saturday 15th. She writes:
Mansur Scott has been my “musical dad” and mentor since 1997 when we met at a jam at St. Nick’s Pub in Harlem. A sort of Gregory Porter (*) meets Andy Bey, what makes him stand out from anyone else is his incredible soulfulness, his absolute presence in the moment, which drags you into it with him, and – above all – his utter authenticity. I can no longer hear anyone else’s version of The Nearness of You – not even Nancy Wilson’s or Carmen McRae’s.
Hearing him sing is an “experience”. He is the absolute embodiment of “the real thing”. His emotional and spiritual expressiveness is wordless, without being wordless (you’ll understand this when you see him for yourself). He has been the biggest influence on me as a musician and a person – starting even before my first professional gig in 1999. The first time I played Sweet Rhythm (formerly Sweet Basil’s) in 2003 I said to the manager, Steve: “This is my guru, he’s on the guest list!”, which Steve and I used to laugh about later because he thought I meant actual guru.
But thinking about it, I guess that’s what he is to me. He hears all my lyrics and compositions before anyone else. He’s at all my gigs when he’s in town – when he sits in (and blows everyone away) as often as I can force him to – and his opinion of a performance is the one I value above all others. He used to say: “Don’t worry about singing ‘jazz’ just sing your story!”
And speaking of story, when he sings you can hear every second of his 68 years (from breaking rocks in prison, where he learned to be such an amazing judge of character, to … well, you’ll have to ask him because that’s the tip of the iceberg). I was with him every day when he had his stroke in 1999 (he told the doctors I was his daughter so I could be there all the time) and I never once saw even one second of negativity.
Completely paralysed on one side, he was just always thankful it wasn’t worse. “It’s a blessing and a lesson!” he’d say. And that’s how he sings. I am so happy for his recent success. It’s so deserved. He is hands down the most extraordinary, profoundly moving, “alive” singer I know. And absolutely my favorite. Please don’t miss him when he plays at the Vortex on Saturday 15th March.
Great Voices of Harlem, Vortex Saturday March 15th: Mansur Scott – vocals, percussion / Mavis ‘Swan’ Poole – vocals / Barney Girlinger – trumpet / Klemens Pliem – alt flute, tenor sax / Paul Zauner – trombone / Wolfram Derschmidt – bass / Dusan Novakov – drums / Carlton Homes – piano
(*) Gregory Porter is on the Great Voices of Harlem album, on Pao records, which will be on sale at the Vortex on the night
Tessa Souter will be at Pizza Express Dean Street with Jim Hart (vibes), Oli Hayhurst (bass) and Winston Clifford (drums and voice)on June 17 and 18.