Last week was the first “New Music Friday” I’ve truly had to be excited about since it’s debut. Why? The release of Jill Scott’s new CD, “Woman.” 2015 marks the 15th anniversary of Ms. Scott’s arrival on the international music scene with the album “Who is Jill Scott” on my old favorite Hidden Beach Recordings. Since that time she’s maintained and cultivated a position of being one of the new pillars of black music and culture, a potential modern heir to the thrones of Bessie Smith, Mahalia Jackson, Ethel Waters, Lady Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, and many other women space prevents me from naming. This has not always equalled smash recordings in today’s substance free music world, but it has given her tremendous respect, steady work, and first call status for projects that require feminine talent and perspective that go beyond a mere flash of ass. Which is to say her career is shaping up to be a fine integrity based one so far. But reputation aside, is Miss Jilly from Philly dropping the funk bomb right here, right now, as she did on 2011’s backyard boogie “So in Love with You”, 2001’s 24 Karat Black “High Post Brotha”, or the Go Go fueled dance ecstasy of “It’s Love” from her debut? Exhibit A is today’s weekend Nu Funk, “Closure.” Jill puts on a vocal master class over a funky beat as she tells her ex, “Don’t be expecting no breakfast in the morning”, after one of those questionable romantic trysts.
The song starts off with some bedrock funk, a slowed down, altered pitch sample of Patrice “Choclate” Banks “Funk Box” drum machine solo from Graham Central Stations epic funk rock classic, “The Jam.” The sample starts off slowed down in pitch and tempo, going up towards the intended pitch with each new bar, until it reaches the key and tempo of “Closure.” Part of what made the sample so unique and kept the sound alive, is the unique sound of it’s organ box electric percussion. At the same time the drum sample is playing, an electric piano is playing a strong “and-ONE” piano groove, consisting of a bass note going up a step in the players right hand and a chord in their left. The electric piano part has a strong sassy, gospel feel, perfect for the “Respect” like lesson Ms.Scott is about o serve up. The electric bass guitar comes in, restless, syncopated, but also beginning and ending with the same “and-ONE” phrase the keyboardist is playing.
Jill drops us off near the climax of the story, as she’s sitting up after a romantic encounter, with the poor brother still in the bed, knowing she has to let him know he’d better not get used to laying up with her. Ol boy may think he has a good thing going namely, commitment free sex, but Jill says, “Ima take a little time to bring up/that fact that we did break up.” The piano part and bass shift to a rather ominous sounding minor interval as she describes the night they had, when homeboy got, “That sweet rough/that funky stuff/I can tell by your moans u ain’t getting none/maybe you are/but it ain’t my love!”
The beat trops out as she trumpets, “Don’t be expecting no breakfast in the morning!!!” The drum beat drops out, a triumphant horn section comes in, with trademark lazy, behind the beat go go percussion. Soon, the horns are hitting the same line as the grounding electric piano and the bass is playing some pumping, “you’re in jeopardy” sounding eighth notes, as Ms. Scott defines the encounter in no uncertain terms, “This is Closure.”
When the groove and the drums return on the next verse, the horn part continues to develop further. And then, as she did over the Go Go power of “It’s Love”, she makes me hungry both for her and literal food as she coos real sweetly to her ex about all the good, nouveau home cooking he’s gonna be missing that A.M and every A.M thereafter, including her homemade waffles with fresh strawberries,quiche, pepper jack grits, and her “grandma’s buttermilk biscuits.” Dude is left outside the house asking, “The closure begin today?”
Something also must be said about Jill’s incredible vocal performance on this song. She hits so many textures, enunciations, vocal shadings, with a lot of character, different emotions and soul. One thing I’ve always felt showed up well in her singing is her strong drama background. Also in a time when so many think the black soul gospel sound is simply about melisma, running a lot of riffs, I continue to be refreshed by her strong blues/jazz/soul belting. She understands soul singing on a far more sublime level than most folks in the circus today. An example of that is when she sings the line “When I know that it’s the ending” with rising gospel force and immediately dips down into a jazzy low register, singing the line “We ended our time for a reason” with slick syncopation. Smh. I just can’t say enough about how she hits me with black woman SOUND in her vocals. “Closure” is a supremely funky record, a great kiss of record, and a great introduction for Jill’s next run. Last summer I was digging her playing James Brown’s wife in “Get On Up”, this year she’s making me get on up with her music and I like it like that!