Jazz legend Jimmy Scott apologizes for his long absence from the Bay Area. He’s been dealing with a serious health issue — a recent leg injury that required a brace, then a 40-day program of antibiotics and a wheelchair after the metal on the brace dug into and infected his skin. “My legs are all right; they’re coming along slowly, so I’ll be OK,” reports the 84-year-old, who overcame Kallmann’s syndrome to enjoy a big-band career in the 1940s and ’50s before being rediscovered by Lou Reed in 1991, singing at the funeral of their friend Doc Pomus.
Was it odd to essentially give up on music in the 1960s and return to your native Cleveland as a hotel elevator operator?
No, it didn’t feel strange at all. But that was where all my health trouble really began. I hurt my left hip on that job and I’ve never gotten restitution for it. I was instructed to take up an order of food to the 13th floor, and I got up there, but my leg got caught and I couldn’t move it. And in turning to free myself, I fell down and was in so much pain, you wouldn’t believe it. But this hotel actually had a 13th floor! Most buildings didn’t have one then.
Now it’s your right leg that’s giving you problems. It sounds like you left the hospital sicker than when you arrived — true?
Yes, that’s right. And that makes me so mad, because I really wasn’t feeling that bad when I went in. They put a band on my ankle and it wound up wearing into the ankle itself.
But your singing voice is still strong?
Oh, yeah! There’s no problem in that department at all.
Your latest album was recorded live in Tokyo. How are the Japanese crowds?
Oh, they’re beautiful, baby! And they always bring me gifts, like food and paintings.
And you’re completely sober, too?
Yes. My wife Jeanie makes sure that there’s none around, no liquor at all. She’s looking out for me, yes she is. And she’s been doing it all along, ever since we got married 10 years ago.
Are you planning another studio album?
Yeah. I want to record something with my own band this time. But I’m happy with the catalog I’ve got so far. And I’ve been a part of music for so long and worked with so many great people, so how could anybody have any complaints about that?
IF YOU GO
Jimmy Scott & the Jazz Expressions
Where: Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday
Contact: (415) 655-5600, www.yoshis.com