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Cleveland jazz star Little Jimmy Scott dies

News Desk | 6/20/2014, 10:01 a.m.
Owing to obligations on an earlier contract that Scott had signed with Herman Lubinsky, the record was withdrawn in a ...

James Victor "Jimmy" Scott (July 17, 1925 – June 12, 2014), also known as "Little" Jimmy Scott, was an American jazz vocalist famous for his unusually high contralto voice, which was due to Kallmann's syndrome, a very rare genetic condition. The condition stunted his growth at four feet eleven inches until, at the age of 37, he grew another 8 inches to the height of five feet seven inches. The condition prevented him from reaching puberty, leaving him with a high, undeveloped voice

Scott was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Authur and Justine Stanard Scott, the third in a family of ten. As a child Jimmy got his first singing experience by his mother's side at the family piano, and later, in church choir. At thirteen, he was orphaned when his mother was killed by a drunk driver.

He first rose to prominence as "Little Jimmy Scott" in the Lionel Hampton Band when he sang lead on the late 1940s hit "Everybody's Somebody's Fool", recorded in December 1949, and which became a top ten R&B hit in 1950. Credit on the label, however, went to "Lionel Hampton and vocalists," so the singer's name did not appear on any of the songs. This omission of credit was not only a slight to Scott's talent but a big blow to his career. A similar professional insult occurred several years later when his vocal on "Embraceable You" with Charlie Parker, on the album “One Night in Birdland,” was credited to female vocalist Chubby Newsome.

Lionel Hampton gave him the stage name of "Little Jimmy Scott" because he looked so young, and was short and of slight build. However, it was his extraordinary phrasing and romantic feeling that made him a favorite singer of fellow artists such as Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Frankie Valli, Dinah Washington and Nancy Wilson.

In 1963, it looked as though Scott's luck had changed: he signed to Ray Charles' Tangerine Records label, under the supervision of Charles himself, creating what is considered by many to be one of the great jazz vocal albums of all time, “Falling in Love is Wonderful.”

Owing to obligations on an earlier contract that Scott had signed with Herman Lubinsky, the record was withdrawn in a matter of days, while Scott was on honeymoon. The album was not re-released for forty years. Scott disputes the "lifetime" contract; Lubinsky loaned Jimmy out to Syd Nathan at King Records for 45 recordings in 1957–58. Another album, “The Source” (1969), was not released until 2001.

Scott's career faded by the late 1960s and he returned to his native Cleveland to work as a hospital orderly, shipping clerk and as an elevator operator in a hotel.

Scott's career spanned sixty-five years. He performed with Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Lester Young, Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus, Fats Navarro, Quincy Jones, Bud Powell, Ray Charles, Wynton Marsalis, and Peter Cincotti. He also performed with a host of musicians from other genres of music, such as David Byrne, Lou Reed, Flea, Michael Stipe, and Antony & The Johnsons.