Asaf Avidan’s new album “Different Pulses”, Israel’s answer to Jimmy Scott.

"Different Pulses".

Dif­fer­ent Pulses”.

When Bob Boilen played the title track from Asaf Avidan’s 2012 album Dif­fer­ent Puls­es on NPR’s All Songs Con­sid­ered (reviewed ear­li­er here) a few weeks ago, you could hear the sound of var­i­ous jaws hit­ting the floor. That’s because the voice of this lat­ter day Janis Joplin belongs in fact to a 33 year old Israeli man.

Unlike poor old Jim­my Scott though, there’s noth­ing unfor­tu­nate about the sound that he pro­duces. It’s just very unusual.

Lit­tle Jim­my Scott, as he was dubbed, was born with Kallmann’s Syn­drome. This meant that he grew to be no taller than four foot eleven until he was into his late thir­ties, when he sud­den­ly spout­ed anoth­er 8 inch­es. The result was that the diminu­tive Scott sound­ed for all the world like a female jazz singer.

Little Jimmy Scott, with fans Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, David Bowie and Antony Hegarty.

Lit­tle Jim­my Scott, with fans Lou Reed, Lau­rie Ander­son, David Bowie and Antony Hegarty.

And sure enough, he was right roy­al­ly screwed by most of the peo­ple he seems to have met in the music indus­try through­out the 50s and 60s. Thor­ough­ly deject­ed and unfair­ly ignored, he retired in the 70s.

Hap­pi­ly though, he was res­cued again in the 1990s by the arche­typ­al out­siders Lou Reed and David Lynch, who pro­vid­ed him with a belat­ed renais­sance. Reed invit­ed him to per­form on his 1992 album Mag­ic and Loss, which was ded­i­cat­ed to their mutu­al friend Doc Pomus. And Lynch brought him in to work on the sec­ond series of Twin Peaks, which you can hear here.

Avi­dan in con­trast seems to be a per­fect­ly con­ven­tion­al man phys­i­cal­ly speak­ing. Which makes the sound he pro­duces all the more remarkable.

Avi­dan began tour­ing his native Israel with his band in 2006, and over the next four or five years they pro­duced 3 huge­ly suc­cess­ful albums, where they quick­ly amassed a siz­able cult fol­low­ing. They went their sep­a­rate ways in 2011 though, and Dif­fer­ent Puls­es is his debut solo album.

If Jim­my Scott had had Janis Joplin’s oomph, and she his vocal range, this is what it might have sound­ed like. Impres­sive­ly, it’s a range and emo­tion­al depth that’s main­tained across the whole album.

Asaf Avidan.

Asaf Avi­dan.

There’s very lit­tle sense how­ev­er of the East or of the Ori­ent. There is occa­sion­al­ly a slight hint of the few years Avi­dan spent on Jamaica soak­ing up their rhythms. But for the most part it’s a rich­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed RnB album that would 40 years ago have been put out by Stax and dis­trib­uted by Atlantic Records. Doc Pomus would been called in to pro­vide a lyric or two. And Jim­my Scott could eas­i­ly have been smug­gled in to pro­vide back­ing vocals. Un-cred­it­ed of course.

You can see the video for Dif­fer­ent Puls­es and hear Avi­dan for your­self here.

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