Cynthia Scott

*It was shortly after the passing of her mother at age 94, that I first spoke to singer Cynthia Scott.  She had recently finished the recording of her CD “Dream for One Bright World,” a poignant CD that I suspect was a labor of love.  It may have also served as a catharsis for the loss of her mother who passed during the time Cynthia was recording the CD.

Obviously, her heart was reflected in the rhythm and message of the music.  The CD, an eleven-track recording, features musicians such as Lonnie Plaxico on bass, trumpeter Etienne Charles, pianist/keyboardist John diMartino, multi-reed player Bill Easley, Wayne Escoffrey on tenor sax, percussionist Jeff Haynes, trombonist Andrae Murchinson, and famed arranger and pianist Norman Simmons.

I suspect the same heart rhythm and tempo will continue to be reflected in the musical performance piece she has written entitled “One Raelette’s Journey,” her one woman play chronicling her life and her experiences working with Ray Charles as one of his Raelettes.  The play consists of original material written by Ms. Scott with some excerpts flavoring the music Ray Charles made famous.  Currently putting on the finishing touches, Cynthia will be showcasing her production sometime in February 2011.

Born in El Dorado, Arkansas, and singing since age 4, Cynthia Scott grew up as a preacher’s kid, placing 10th in the pecking order of 12 siblings. Her father, a Holy Roller minister, loved gospel so Cynthia was/is well versed in the genre and spirit of gospel.  In fact, only gospel music was allowed in her home, so if she wanted to whet her appetite for other musical forms, it had to be at the homes of neighbors or at her sister’s house.  “The first song I heard outside of gospel was “Save Your Love for Me.”  The flip side was “Share Your Love with Me.”  It was really a beautiful song.  My love of music continued to grow from there,” explained the former Raelette.

“When I was in 9th grade I became part of a group called “Sisters of Soul,” remarked Cynthia who went on to become an airline stewardess.  “I was afraid of flying so that job was short lived but I was honing my music the entire time I was working for the airlines.  It was in 1972, that I met Ray Charles.  I had gotten up early and was fighting with my dog who was chewing on my underwear when the phone rang.  I was rather cross, so when I answered the phone I was brusque. It was Ray Charles at the other end of the line inviting me to become part of his back-up singers known as the Raelettes.  I worked with Ray for the next 2 years, which included a tour with Oscar Peterson with Joe Pass and The Count Basie Orchestra with Joe Williams.  Ray really kick started my career,” stated the multi-talented vocalist, versed in jazz, R&B and gospel.

“You know when one is blind other senses kick in.  Ray’s hearing was magnified.  He could point to the exact band member who missed a note and correct them.  Ray knew exactly how he wanted his music to represent him.  I learned a lot from him.  It was due to working with Ray that I first traveled abroad and met the wonderful and talented people I met,” recalled the songwriter.

All singers are influenced by those singers who came before them and Cynthia is no different.   “I loved Carmen McCrae, Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin. They had such depth of feel and later I listened to and enjoyed the music of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.  I pay tribute to some of these great ladies in my CD.”

Appointed the Ambassador of Jazz, Cynthia had the opportunity to travel to Africa.  It was in Ghana that she noted the family origins and resemblance. Thus, knew that Ghana is where her ancestry lies.  She buried photographs of her family in Ghana’s soil. “Africa was a life changing experience for me.  I had the opportunity to go places and do things most tourist can’t.  I visited 5 African countries. Everyone goes to the place the slaves were kept as part of the Middle Passage.  I visited that area and a place where they worshiped snakes” said Cynthia of her experience in Africa.

She returned to school where she earned her Bachelor and Master Degrees from the Manhattan School of Music in 1993 and 1995. She’s on the vocal teacher roster at The New School and City College and teaches private students.

Ms. Scott has headlined at Birdland, Iridium, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola and has worked with many of the jazz world’s superstars such as the late Lionel Hampton, Cab Calloway and David Fathead Newman, as well as with Eddie Henderson, Ed Cherry, and Wynton Marsalis. She even tested the acoustics at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Room with a combo comprised of saxophonist Sherman Irby, bassist Gerald Cannon, drummer Willie Jones and pianist John Hicks. She has traveled abroad performing at various festivals and has performed at The Women in Jazz Festival at Lincoln Center.  She appeared in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a tribute featuring the music of Johnny Mercer and was a finalist in the Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition and the 2005 International Songwriting Competition.

Cynthia’s mother had Alzheimer when she passed.  Therefore, Ms. Scott is donating a portion of the income she makes from her CD towards a cure for the dreaded disease.  Thus, interested parties can buy her CD “Dream for One Bright World,” and find info on her one-woman-show entitled “One Raelette’s Journey,” at her website: www.CynthiaScott.com.  To hear her interview on the “Topically Yours” show, see Blakeradio.com, Rainbow Soul archives, and/or visit the February “Music Pastures” section of www.Soulinterviews.com.