Just when we thought we knew who Jill Scott was, she deepens her definition: poet, singer, songwriter, sex symbol, queen of R&B. Scott’s new double-disc, Experience: Jill Scott 826+, showcases the singer’s command of the stage on 11 live tracks (the last of which was recorded 8/26) and her stunning versatility on a second disc of unreleased studio gems. The catharsis of experiencing Scott perform is captured miraculously on live renditions of “Love Rain” (transformed here into a 12-minute jam session) and “He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat),” which, with her band Fatback Taffy, she performs in three breathtaking movements. Audience participation on tracks like “A Long Walk” and “One Is the Magic # (Redux)” is unparalleled, as they literally become part of the arrangements. Scott’s dry wit resounds through her interaction with her fans; in defense of her bitch-slappin’ first single, “Gettin’ in the Way,” she says, “I don’t talk about whooping nobody’s ass until the bridge.” Scott displays her stunning range (vocally, emotionally and texturally) on the second disc, from her playful and sexy challenge of complacency on “Gotta Get Up (Another Day)” to the multifarious sounds of “Be Ready” (“I can fly higher than high/I can be many styles at the same time”). “Be Ready,” along with the Prince-esque “Gimme,” demonstrates her undeniable hip-hop sensibility as well. (As an added bonus, the disc contains a hidden house mix of “He Loves Me.”) 826+ should have simply provided a stepping stone to Scott’s official sophomore effort, promising even greater things to come; instead, the album itself is one of the year’s most accomplished, virtually guaranteeing that promise. Be ready.
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