Marilyn Scott Interview 2004
A Nightcap Conversation
With Marilyn Scott
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.
Marilyn Scott is a classic song stylist with a deep love for jazz, blues, soul, timeless melodies and lyrics. Over the course of seven previous recordings Marilyn Scott has established herself as one of contemporary music’s premiere singer/songwriters. She’s carried on this tradition with her new release. We got a chance to speak with Marilyn one afternoon in November…
JazzUSA: What is it like working with George Duke?
Marilyn: He makes the opportunity of creating new music a complete adventure. Just fun and he gets so excited. It’s just so sweet to work with him. He brings out the very best in you. I remember when I went to him the first time and asked him if he would take on a couple of tunes as part of a CD project that I was doing. I totally expected him to say look I don’t have the time, but maybe I can suggest a few people. This would have been nice of him as well. But he didn’t, I couldn’t get it through my head that he accepted working with me.
As soon as he said “oh yeah Maril come on that would be great.” He has his desk right next to his wife, who has a desk. Corinne does all the business, calls all the players, and interviews for George and coordinates the business with him. So when you walk in that room, it’s like walking into a little den in their house. Because it is in there house everybody looks at each and says yeah come will have a good time. Everyone’s trying to create a party in a way. But very dignified at the same time, and very classy he is.
JazzUSA: Did he have any say so in the selection of the songs on NightCap or is that all you?
Marilyn: I did go to him with a list of things that I definitely had been thinking about. If I could every get this opportunity in my career where I thought it would be a good thing to do. Then these are some of the songs that I wanted to do. We ended up doing those things, but also what he wanted to do is to make sure that each song sort of laid into the next one. So that the project didn’t jump from one to the other. A lot of the albums that people make including myself sometimes we make the mistake of making things a little bit to eclectic and it doesn’t fit so well and it doesn’t flow. So he was suggesting what about this or what about that, but they were all tunes that he’s done as well.
He was very interested in seeing what we could do about making them different. Cause when you want to do “Smile”, all the people that have done Smile before. We wanted to be able to lay something a little bit different on it. So we made some interesting intro, and when getting out of the tune, he did the arrangement so that there would be a horn thing. I could grab on to the horn thing and write a little bit to it. He had a great deal to say about what we should do and what we shouldn’t do.
JazzUSA: The musicians on the album, you’ve got Vinny on there, Brian Bromberg from A-440, Ray Fuller and a few other people. Once again who decided who the musicians would be.
Marilyn: We did it together and he said to me who do you want to play. First of all we both play with Ray Fuller a lot, a lot of my sound is a lot of what Ray plays. I like incorporating some of that too. And I got George to play which I thought would be the hardest hurdle. Because often he says, on some of the other tunes that he’s produced that he’s gotten someone else to play. He said I’ll put a little sweetening on it or something like that. But this time he agreed to play, and I hadn’t played with anyone upright before, upright bass playing. I said that I had wanted to work with Brian before, and he does play upright. So we checked him out and it worked out great.
Vinny, I’ve worked with Vinny for years and years. Well it was George who said what do you guys think about Vinny. Which I thought was a great idea but I thought well straight ahead. Vinny is so like ‘up’ some times. I mean he can do the wall jazz crazy thing or he can do the Blues thing or the R&B thing is so good. The quiet type of vibe thing he wouldn’t have to come to mind right away for me. But George was right on about it and Vinny put this little hitting the cymbals a certain way just going around the set in a certain way. It was really exciting and very nicely done.
JazzUSA: It sure can out nice. You mentioned Russell Ferrante?, you should tell us a little bit about your history with the Yellow Jackets.
Marilyn: I met Russell in the San Francisco Bay Area back in the 70’s. That’s where he was raised he and Robin Ford I met up there. He moved to Los Angeles, I moved back to Los Angeles and Robin came to LA. That’s how I met Jimmy was through Russell and their first Yellow Jacket record. We had already started our writing experience together by that time, so that was 79-80. I think I met Jimmy about 80-81, and their like my family. Anything that I have asked of them or bring an idea, was always really embraced and thought about how to make it different. We’ve always written about a lot of issues things, like life and in the times that surround us all. About hate, difficult things, when you feel the worst in your life how to do you hold yourself up. We’ve always been heavy issue people, the wilderness and stuff like that.
JazzUSA: It’s a nice album for what it’s worth, I like it but no one cares what I like.
Marilyn: Thank you, I appreciate that.
JazzUSA: Are you touring ?
Marilyn: Not at this moment, we’re looking to grab onto the train somehow, that’s what we’re doing. We’re looking to do just that.
JazzUSA: You are performing down in California.
Marilyn: Oh Yeah we play here.
JazzUSA: They can go to your website and find out where you’ll be.
Marilyn: Definitely, thank you .
JazzUSA: What’s next?
Marilyn: Hopefully getting out there and playing.
JazzUSA: No, I mean your next album. Have you thought that far down the road yet.
Marilyn: Yes I did. Hopefully I’d like to work with George again. There are a lot of things that I’ve written that I would like to put on the new projects.
JazzUSA: That was my next question, what about some original compositions?
Marilyn: I definitely will be going back to that.
JazzUSA: I know that you have a well documented history with Tower of Power. Are they in your future anywhere, musically I mean.
Marilyn: Yeah, wouldn’t it be great, but you know it hasn’t gotten to that place again. It seems like my section has gotten smaller and smaller and smaller. When we use horns on this project, we used jazz players. So we didn’t get to do the funk thing or the R&B type of vibe or the Blues thing. That would have been great on “The Last Thing I Do” that would have been great to have some horns. We just didn’t have the money power to pass around. They are always in mind about working again. We do a Christmas show too, that the horn section comes and plays on. So one way or the other I get some jones with them. I see Greg Adams all the time too.
JazzUSA: Are you doing a Christmas show this year.
Marilyn: Yes I think so.
JazzUSA: Do you know where?
Marilyn: No, I don’t it’s between a couple of clubs.
JazzUSA: When you know make sure you let us know, so that we can put a little blurb in there. To get some people out there for you. I want them to be able to find you.
Marilyn: Thank you so much.
JazzUSA: Is there anything that you want people to know about Marilyn Scott. Obviously you have the Piranha Institute, which I will mention at the end of this interview.
Marilyn: Well the success of any artist one way or the other really helps any kind of charity or anything that is part of your soul. That you want others to be interested in or try to considered. The best thing that I can do for myself is what I can turn around and give to other people. I only hope that my music and the people that I play with and are involved with, will be enough of an interest where they would want to buy the music. Or come to a gig and that will only enable me to do some things for children, on behalf of the homeless and others. All types of things that I would really love to be involved with even on a deeper scale.
JazzUSA: Maybe we can get you more hits out there, more million selling albums.
Marilyn: Yeah, you know.
JazzUSA: Well Marilyn it’s been great talking to you, and keep making good music.
Marilyn: Thanks for helping bring it to the people, I appreciate it. And I’ll let you guys know when I tour.