by Donald Rumpert
Vocalist Donna E. Scott explores emotions from celebratory to introspective, with her 2017 release Carnival. With a title like Carnival, the word invokes colorful festive images of masked revelers, frenetic rhythms, and dancing in the streets. Traditionally Carnival is the prelude to the season of Lent, it’s also a time for spiritual reflection and renewal. The project is a blend of beloved standards combined new material.
Scott gathered a multi-cultural blend of gifted musicians to breathe life into these songs. Swedish trombonist Nils Landgren and GRAMMY®-winning South African flautist Wouter Kellerman make guest appearances, while Scott’s core band features musicians from Cuba, Venezuela, Italy and elsewhere. Among the Houston contingent, bassist Tim Ruiz is a longtime member of four-time GRAMMY®-winning Tejano band La Mafia and background vocals on two songs are provided by former Gap Band singer Dorian Paul Williams.
Scott’s earthy contralto explores love lost and found in the opening title track. The songs graceful bossa sway, conveys the emotional spectrum, encompassing a panorama of a Carnival crowd teeming with romance and heartbreak, new chapters beginning and old stories ending. The song is composed by Dehner Franks, Scott’s former vocal and jazz piano coach. The beautiful harmonies and Scott’s festive vocal delivery make this a stand-out opening track.
“Pennies From Heaven,” is given a big band treatment by saxophonist Horace Alexander Young’s arrangement, with playful hits and subtlety moving backgrounds highlighting the harmony. Landgren’s trombone solo is a high point, his joyous lines and command of rhythmic subtleties is a fine display of his musical mastery. Scott’s delivery of the melody helps convey the inner meaning of the song, no matter what happens, you can work through it.”
Jeffrey Moss, a classmate of Scott’s from Texas Southern University, composed “I Don’t Want You Anymore,” which finds Scott in a bluesy R&B mood that suites her very well. The shuffle is punctuated by horn hits, full organ chords and plenty of attitude. For a climax, the tune segues into Benny Golson’s classic kiss-off tune, “Killer Joe.”
Despite a lifelong love of music, Scott had often found herself too intimidated to sing in public–in part due to her contralto voice, a prime component of what makes her such a distinctive presence. The Carnival theme is an apt one for Scott, who is enjoying her own rebirth as a jazz singer following a successful career in advertising, film and television production. The Chicago native, invites us to join the celebratory, soulful and rich music outing that is Carnival, and you are sure to enjoy the festivities.