Each January, the who’s who of Philadelphia pays big bucks to attend the Philadelphia Orchestra’s annual Academy Ball and Concert at the Academy of Music. There are glorious gowns and fine jewels. There’s lots of society gossip. And there’s always a special guest performer, with past rosters showcasing everyone from Rod Stewart and Billy Joel to Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang. But this year, for the 157th edition of the grand fete, the Orchestra has chosen a much more local talent: North Philadelphia-born-and-raised Jill Scott.
Now, if you’re wondering Where the hell has Jill Scott been?, it’s not an unfair question. After a long series of Grammy- nominated songs and albums and her own 2009 show on HBO (The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), Scott more or less went underground—but not without good cause. In 2009 she had a baby boy, and one year later, she was sued by her longtime record label for millions of dollars for breach of contract, tying up her life and career. That suit has since been settled.
These days, the 41-year-old songstress has given up Philadelphia for Los Angeles in order to pursue her career on-screen; she was recently cast as James Brown’s wife in Get On Up, a forthcoming Brown biopic that’s being produced by Mick Jagger. But she’s not giving up on singing—she plans to release two albums in 2014.
Scott has proven to be a decent actress, and her short-lived HBO show was legitimately funny. But she’s a remarkable singer and consummate entertainer who could easily be the Patti LaBelle of this generation, without the hair or ridiculous diva-ness.
I somehow missed the chance to see Scott during her heyday, and it was my loss. When I finally caught up with her in the summer of 2013—she performed with the Roots and Slash for the Borgata’s 10-year anniversary party—she completely stole the show. So I won’t be missing her at the Academy Ball, even though it means I’m going to have to rent a tux.
The Academy of Music 157th Anniversary Concert and Ball takes place Sat., Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. Get tickets here.