Bright times ahead for Jill Scott

The Grammy winner has been through a lot - love, loss, birth - but she’s back with a new album

Jill Scott’s new album, “The Light of the Sun,’’ her first in four years, went straight to the top of the charts. Jill Scott’s new album, “The Light of the Sun,’’ her first in four years, went straight to the top of the charts. (Kirsten Luce for The New York Times)
By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / July 22, 2011

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Jill Scott is ready to get down. And that’s just what she plans to do when she brings her Jill Scott’s Summer Block Party tour to the Bank of America Pavilion on Tuesday. The Philadelphia-spawned soul singer has plenty to celebrate.

Her splendid new album, “The Light of the Sun,’’ debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart last month and remains lodged firmly in the top 10.

And personally, there has been a great deal of change, including a divorce, a brief engagement, the addition of her son, and the subtraction of about 60 pounds.

Musically, it has been four years since the Grammy winner’s last release, “The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3,’’ so her new album’s rise caught even Scott by surprise.

“I was like, ‘What? Wow!’ ’’ she says with a chuckle over the phone from Philadelphia, of her reaction to the Billboard news. “I’m still reeling. I guess I’ve been missed a little bit.’’

It’s not like she hasn’t been busy. Professionally, she branched further out in her acting career, starring in the HBO adaptation of the popular mystery novel series “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,’’ and the 2007 Tyler Perry film “Why Did I Get Married’’ and its 2010 sequel. She also parted ways with her former record label, Hidden Beach, and aligned her own imprint - Blues Babe Records - with Warner Brothers.

The 39-year-old took all of those experiences into the studio and poured them into the album’s disparate tracks. Covering the emotional spectrum one might expect from navigating all of the above, Scott recorded something both deeply personal but also eminently relatable, especially for female fans who cherish her tell-it-like-it-is-with-a-poetic-twist style.

“When I step back and look at it, I go ‘Oh boy, what did I just say?,’ ’’ says Scott, her girlish voice giving way to a giggle. “This particular record I didn’t really think about what I was going to say or even how I was going to say it, it just happened. And I really enjoyed the whole process of it.’’

That joy is audible. The breezy opening jam “Blessed’’ is a happy statement of purpose, laced with gratitude. “Hear My Call’’ is a plaintive piano-ballad plea to a higher power for help through tough times. “Womanifesto’’ is a stinging and sensitive spoken word paean to all aspects of womanhood. The epic “Le BOOM Vent Suite’’ is both hilarious and tragic as it chronicles the dreaded post-date phone call wait. The jazzy vocalizing on “Quick’’ mirrors the short, sharp shocks Scott felt after a dizzying, yet brief, romance. And the exuberant hip-hop soul/gospel hybrid “Shame’’ cheekily takes to task men who would dismiss a woman without truly knowing her.

Scott, who, as the author of a book of poetry, is familiar with the agonizing editing and reediting process, was happy to discover that a free-form approach is a better fit for her as a songwriter.

“It’s the only way for me to work now, because music should be fun. It’s not a chore, it’s not a job,’’ she says, grateful for the lesson 11 years into a career marked by critical acclaim and commercial success for hits like “Golden’’ and “A Long Walk.’’ “The first record I ever did we had so much fun,’’ she says of her double-platinum 2000 debut, “Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1.’’

“We weren’t expecting anything and so many great songs came out of that. After that, it was like ‘now I have to,’ ’’ she says with an illustrative sigh. “I had to be very introspective and thoughtful and looking for experiences and this time around there was so much to say, so many things that occurred, that mostly I just stood in the front of the mike and blacked out.’’

As for her acting career, Scott says fans of “No. 1 Ladies’’ come up to her every day saying they had no idea who she was or that she was a singer until they saw her savvy character Precious Ramotswe. While there was some talk of a film coming out of the series, Scott says, “I haven’t heard anything other than that they’re writing.’’

While figuring out her next move on the acting front, Scott plans to enjoy her return to the stage and playing with her son, who helped spur the weight loss.

“I had this baby and he’s so sweet and he’s so much fun and it is a challenge being a mommy but also it’s just so wonderful - it really is - watching somebody grow and helping them grow. I just wanted to play more. So I got with my trainer Scott Parker and we figured out ways to play,’’ she says, citing football, tae bo, and bike riding as favorites. “I do what I can and that way I feel like this could be a little more long-lasting because I’m just enjoying myself.’’

Sarah Rodman can be reached at

JILL SCOTT’S SUMMER BLOCK PARTY With Anthony Hamilton, Mint Condition, and Doug E. Fresh on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Bank of America Pavilion. Tickets: $24.75-$120.75, 800-745-3000,