Soul singer Jill Scott’s new album, “Woman,” is a collection of songs that continues her tradition of celebrating feminine strength. But in the weeks before her Wednesday night performance at Wolf Trap, she was making headlines for reasons that seemed to contradict that theme, by continuing to voice support for Bill Cosby as the comedian faced dozens of sexual-assault allegations. Recently, though, she changed her stance, saying on Twitter: “I stood by a man I respected and loved. I was wrong. It HURTS!!!”
But as she came on stage and started into the funky and flirtatious 2001 song “Gimme,” any non-music controversies were quickly forgotten. By the time she got to her 2004 hit “Golden,” it was pretty much impossible to see an audience member who hadn’t been roused out of his or her seat.
Scott is able to express both joy and pain in her voice, and she employed both sentiments simultaneously on her new song “Back Together,” in which she sings of disappointment with an air of optimism and a sense of gratitude: “Pieces of me were scattered blowing in the cold in different directions, truth be told/But then I looked into your eyes and everything felt like it could be all right.” Scott dedicated the song to her 6-year-old son, Jett. “Shout-out to my son; this is for you, Jett.”
While Gladys Knight had the Pips, Scott has an all-male trio of backup singers dubbed the Pipes, whose harmonies recall Boyz II Men and Jodeci. The three joined her at center stage for “You Don’t Know,” a heartache-infused ballad.
In her songs about the ups and downs of love and relationships, and the many lessons learned, the main constant was her soaring vocals. As powerful as they are on record, they resonated even more in person and solidified her well-deserved reputation as one of the era’s great singers.