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Little Jimmy Scott assists FTH in goodbye to Jones

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The Q-20A was horribly late and I got to Flushing Town Hall just in time to catch the beginning of Little Jimmy Scott’s concert for Jo-Ann Jones, who is stepping down as the executive director of the hall, and the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts.

As I ran up the carpeted steps to the balcony I heard a voice that sounded suspiciously female trilling, “Falling In Love Is Wonderful.”

“Isn’t Little Jimmy Scott a man?” I thought, and indeed, he is. A view of the stage revealed Scott as a slight, even frail-looking, man who must have been 80 if a day. His sweet, high tenor and intimate vibrato was filled with the sorrow and wisdom of a sometimes fraught life, which explained why Billie Holiday considered him her favorite singer.

I learned later that the secret to Scott’s sensitive vocalizations was Kallmann’s syndrome, a disease that inhibits hormonal production and thus would keep the voice of a grown man fairly up there in the castrato range, which has been, as one can imagine, both a curse and a blessing. On June 20th, it was a blessing.

Scott’s band — a pianist, saxophone player, upright bass player and drummer — was nearly as good as he was, and the sax player often regaled the audience with blistering solos on the sax and the flute.

On the first floor, people sat at little bistro tables and chowed down on fried chicken, lasagna, rolls and fat chocolate donuts while they drank bottled water, beer and cups of wine. The event was well-attended and perhaps a bit overbooked — one might leave one’s seat only to find it occupied when one came back.

The audience was wildly enthusiastic for a Flushing Town Hall audience, which can be rather decorous. “Don't sing that song!” someone from the audience hollered when it was clear Scott was going to begin “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child.” Of course the person didn’t mean it — Scott’s rendition was achingly soulful.

The band opened after intermission with “Blue Skies” and then paused for Scott to introduce Jo-Ann Jones. It was also her birthday that evening, and a huge cake was wheeled into the auditorium. The audience sang “Happy Birthday,” then the cake was carved while Scott crooned “All the Way” and the mirror ball — that seemed miles above the floor — started, briefly, to spin. The slices of birthday cake finally reached the balcony and proved sweet and gooey, with pineapple and pudding filling and fresh whipped cream icing.

“This is like Oprah and Bilbo Baggins” eleventy-first birthday party all rolled into one,” I thought.

The evening ended all too quickly.

“One more! Two more! Three more!” the crowd screamed, but there were no encores. Scott’s suave quartet took their bows and left.

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