Album: Jill Scott

Experience: Jill Scott 826+, Hidden Beach/Epic
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The Independent Culture

Jill Scott's follow-up to last year's acclaimed debut album seeks to encompass the full breadth of her talents, with one CD of new songs and another of highlights from her live concerts earlier this year. And what talents they are: doubtless intended to expand on critical acclaim portraying her as first and foremost a poetess/composer, the live album is a dazzling demonstration of Scott's command of her art, with the extemporised feel of her vocals on tracks like "A Long Walk" and "Do You Remember" underlining her status as the jazziest of the current crop of soul divas. There's a moment in "Love Rain" where she notes, "He was fresh – fre-eh-eh-uh-eh-uh-esh", chopping up the word with a bout of vocal scratching, before easing further into a colossal 12-minute tour de force, one of the few R&B performances that deserves the epithet "operatic". Featuring keyboards and horns but no guitars, her band Fatback Taffy is a subtle delight, breathing and moving in sympathy with the mood of the audience, and responsive to her every need. The live album alone would be worth the price of purchase, but the additional CD of new material is the cherry on the cake, especially the live 11-minute poem "Thickness", her observations on the big-bootied teenage girls who've been "degraded, exploited, not celebrated/ Saturated with self-hatred", but whose greatest tragedy lies in taking the lurid fantasies of macho rappers at face value.