Four long years after the issue of Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Vol. 1, the woman returns. Scott has retained a good portion of her team from her debut, like Steve McKeever and co-executive producer Jazzy Jeff Townes. Larry Gold is still in charge of the elegant string arrangements, Andre Harris and Vidal Davis are still here in the ...
Four long years after the issue of Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Vol. 1, the woman returns. Scott has retained a good portion of her team from her debut, like Steve McKeever and co-executive producer Jazzy Jeff Townes. Larry Gold is still in charge of the elegant string arrangements, Andre Harris and Vidal Davis are still here in the rhythm section, and there are others. But there are some top-flight guests here as well, including the great jazz trumpeter Nicholas Payton, Raphael Saadiq, and songwriter and pianist Peter Kuzma, just to name a few. Musically, Scott strolls and swaggers joyously in the no man's land between soul, funk, jazz, and, of course, those swinging hip-hop beats. The spoken word interludes that were so prescient on her debut are all but absent here; Beautifully Human is a singer's record. And what a singer! Scott cites Minnie Riperton once more in her thank-yous. One can feel the presence of that influence here, gracing the shimmering grooves in "My Petition" and "Spring Summer Feeling." But lest the listener think this is all sweetness and light, one must remember the artist's considerable lyrical flair that goes for the grain of the matter, whether that be in the heart, the heavens, or the pit of love's belly. The latter track -- with all of its beautiful strings and acoustic guitars floating, hovering, and gently rolling under the singer's voice -- is punctured by crooned lines like "...it takes more than diamonds/To get me wet." On the laid-back hip-hop manifesto of "I'm Not Afraid," Scott poetically (what else?) lays out not only her sexuality but her spirit, one informing the other, speaking of herself as a free individual who is a willing partner in union in eros, spirit, and everyday life. When it gets to the handclapped silvery funk of "Golden," Scott offers another manifesto, one of accepting life on its own terms and making it hers. She once again evokes the paradoxes in relationships, where -- despite her autonomy -- she needs her partner, not for anything but love. The slippery-slope 4/4 backbeat and winding acoustic guitars flow around the singer as she lets her sweet honeyed voice seep into her lyric. Likewise, the jazz piano and loop of "Cross My Mind" show another side of that same equation as the singer alternately speaks and sings her desire. "Bedda at Home" is the steamy midnight queen funk-soul cut. It's not only in the pocket; its groove is infectious. The sound-effected Motown-kissed soul/hip-hop weave of "Family Reunion" is bittersweet, full of wisdom and rough tenderness. Ultimately, Beautifully Human is an even stronger recording than its predecessor. It's seamless in its construction, unlittered in its production, honestly and elegantly articulated in its poetic soul, and utterly intoxicating in its groove consciousness. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi