Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Jill Scott's Musical Diary Hits a High Note

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Jill Scott's Musical Diary Hits a High Note

Article excerpt

Some women keep their diary under their pillow.

But Jill Scott is not some women. And "Woman," the new album that Scott likens to a kind of diary, is very much an open book.

The three-time "neo-soul" Grammy winner and acclaimed actor ("The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," "Get On Up") will be sharing it with nearly 3,000 people today, when she appears at NJPAC's Prudential Hall.

"It's like journal entries," Scott says. "You're in one place in January, and somewhere completely different -- or in exactly the same place -- months later. That's kind of how this album works. It's jumping from journal entry to journal entry."

Singles from the new album, due out July 24, have been whetting the appetite of fans since May. "Fool's Gold" and "You Don't Know" are just some of the songs in which the singer-songwriter, in rangy music that covers every base from hip-hop to funk to soul, gives a multifaceted portrait of - whom?

Well, on one level the woman of "Woman" is -- as the portrait on the cover would suggest -- Scott herself.

It's all part of a musical autobiography that began in 2000 with "Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1," with its hit single "A Long Walk," and has continued over the course of 15 more years and four more albums. "Woman" is, in a sense, an apotheosis.

"I'm claiming - and this is a big title to take on - but I'm claiming that I've officially grown into a woman," says Scott, 43. "I thought I was a woman when I was 30 years old. I did, but I wasn't. ... I've discovered what a relationship actually is. As a girl I thought it was, 'I like you, you like me, we like each other, and we have fun.' As a grown person, [I've discovered] that it's a partnership."

But as the songs on "Woman" spin out into a complicated tapestry of women's needs, wants and crises - from the sheer need for sex ("Wild Cookie") to the pain of heartbreak ("You Don't Know") - it becomes clear that "Woman" is also about women, plural.

"I know I'm not alone in my lesson," she says. "Maybe I'll spark something for somebody else."

Scott, in the past, has been outspoken in her criticism of how women are sometimes given short shrift in popular culture, particularly rap music and videos. Audiences, she said at the 2006 Essence Music Festival, should "demand more."

The multifaceted woman of "Woman" is one answer. Another may be her signature role as an actor: Mma "Precious" Ramotswe, the resourceful sleuth whose hole-in-the-wall Botswana private-eye business in the BBC-HBO adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith's "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" books, starting in 2008, solves mysteries that elude most of the men around her. It's a character, Scott says, who remains close to her heart.

"I love Mma Ramotswe," Scott says. "I would like to be that when I grow up. She has a certain level of grace, regardless of whatever situation she's in. …

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