With a career spanning over four decades, Huxsie Scott has become one of Savannah’s greatest jazz stars.
A native daughter, she began her singing career in her teens, continuing on to play with some of the city’s greatest musicians, as well as some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians.
Scott was raised in her grandfather’s Pentecostal church, where she “didn’t have a choice about singing in the choir.” That early introduction to gospel laid out a solid musical foundation. In her teens, she earned her first paying job singing with the Dixieland Cats Dixieland Band.
“When I was 4 or 6, my mother gave me a record player,” Scott said. “It was one old 45 that had ‘You Do Something To Me’ on one side and ‘Hot Diggity Dog’ on the other side. I tried to give people I imagine were on the other side of my mirror a concert, using my hairbrush as a microphone. What I really wanted to do was have them feel what the music made me feel.”
One of Savannah’s most revered jazz musicians, bassist Ben Tucker, hired Scott to sing with his band in the late 1970s, introducing the singer to a whole new world. She would go on to work with jazz legends like Lionel Hampton — who worked with Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus and Quincy Jones — and John Coltrane’s pianist McCoy Tyner.
“[Tucker] hired me on my reputation only,” Scott said. “He had never heard me sing. That was my crossover into jazz. As a result of working with him and the other musicians he had with him, I got a chance to learn a lot of things about that particular genre of music.
“The interesting thing is, I had already been prepared,” Scott continued. “At Wilder Junior High School, when I was in seventh grade, my teacher taught me a lot of songs. I just humored her. She would go, this is one song you need to learn. I thought they were wonderful old people songs, but she had given me a repertoire.”
In the late 1980s, Scott returned to her gospel roots. It wasn’t until the early oughts that Scott returned to jazz.
“After talking with my pastor around 2002, I had to understand that some things just aren’t wrong and I could sing for a wider audience,” Scott said. “I have probably had more of an opportunity to witness my faith as a result of the kind of work I do singing jazz and working for the Savannah Theatre.
“If there’s one thing about it, if you deliver something from your heart, people get that. No matter what you’re singing, they get that.”
For her May 18 bill at the Mars Theatre in Springfield, Scott has a number of special tunes in store. Scott has worked with guitarist Bruce Spradley for a number of years, but for this show, the two will premiere some of Spradley’s originals. Along with gospel tunes, some Johnny Mercer and perhaps a few songs Scott has written, it will be full evening of entertainment.
“I am looking forward to this,” Scott said. “I think the songs Bruce has written are the most incredible thing. I really like them. I connect with those songs.”
Looking back over her career, Scott has enjoyed her experience as a singer.
“The good times, the bad times, no matter what, I’ve totally enjoyed it,” Scott said. “The audience has been absolutely precious to me.”