Monday, May 10, 2010

Christian Scott: A New Revolution To Be Heard

Christian Scott (trumpet; b. 1983)

A few weeks ago I stumbled across the music of New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott. I had heard the name around the scene but up until that point I had given it much attention, thinking it was mostly hype. Well funny how time flies and thoughts change. I have spent allot of time absorbing the music of Christian Scott and I have to say this is one cat you should really check out.

There is a sense of aggression, thoughtfulness and protest throughout his music. Christian Scott is definitely challenging the order of things. I believe I said I hadn't seen and heard this much brouhaha since Roy Hargrove came on the scene, and I still think I'm right. But Scott does deliver the goods. He has a desire to fuck with our preconceived notions of how jazz should be (from an American perspective). The european jazz artists are already blowing jazz apart and reconstructing it. Christian Scott is looking at it from a rock/alternative perspective. His material is dense, packed with distorted guitar work and pulsating drum lines.

The ghost of Miles Davis does linger for those who are wondering, but then you think "What would Miles be doing now anyway?" (Remember he had worked with Prince on some brief studio work before his death).

Rewind That (Concord), Christian Scott's debut, is a well-crafted and smoothly executed session highlighted by the striking originals "Say It," "Rejection," "Suicide" and the Donald Harrison penned "Paradise Found". This is a dark and ambitious album without any real upbeat movements. Although you could consider Scott's reinterpretation of the Miles Davis classic "So What" as a funky 21st look into what was done and what can be done when listening to your mentors.

The follow up, Anthem (Concord) continues the forward thinking approach and appropriate usage of rock-tinged guitar as needed. Passages like "Anthem," "Dialect" and "Katrina's Eyes" show a deeper perception and sense of anger that could parallel some of Miles' mid-fusion era material. There is still a beautiful quality to this playing that holds the language of the tunes together. It's like riding through a riot a 2 miles an hour and now wants to touch your car. Anthem is heavy stuff but then "The 9" and "Like That" remind you that Christian Scott and his band can find the groove and subtle ballad side of the proceedings to ease the listener along the journey. Anthem turns out to be a strong follow up with some very heady themes.

Some would see his third album Live At Newport (Concord) as nothing but filler until the next studio album but this would be a major misstep on any one's thought. Live At Newport is a CD/DVD that demonstrates both visually and audibly what an awesome performer Christian Scott has become in just short of a decade. And to witness his band including pianist Aaron Parks, bassist, Joe Sanders, guitarist, Matt Stevens ripping through chord changes with an emotional verve that might be reserved for more rock oriented acts is truly amazing. Keeping his band together appears to be one of the main focuses of Christian Scott ethos.

This is a band that is in supreme control and the interplay is meticulous. The work done by saxophonist, Walter Smith III is fantastic, especially on "Litany Against Fear" along with Parks again on piano. This is a fresh concert date finds the group in prime form. Along with a few originals there are two Matthew Stevens tunes, "Rumor" and "The Crawler" that for me were startling and refreshing. Live At Newport also revisits of "Anthem" and "Rewind That" with higher than expected results when experienced live (especially on the DVD). Live At Newport is still challenging stuff but worth every minute of it.

Yesterday you said Tomorrow (Concord) appears to be the culmination of a journey. The fusion of rock idioms and jazz rhythms into a solid, well balanced jazz album that demands the attention it is receiving. Yesterday you said Tomorrow starts out emotionally deep with some terrific interplay between Scott, drummer, Jamire Williams and guitarist, Matthew Stevens on "K.K.P.D." I've never been a fan of Radiohead or Thom Yorke but somehow the groups cover of "The Eraser" actually works (who would of thought of that?). Tracks like "Isadora" (originally on Live At Newport) and "Jenacide" are gritty, complex and challenging. It all comes to a perfect conclusion by giving the listener more thing to think about on the abortion themed "The Roe Effect".

While every artist uses their environment as the basis for their work, few American jazz musicians transform their thoughts into logical, thought provoking and even sometimes unnerving soundscapes that cause the listener to stand back and truly take stock of what is going on in music. Jazz continues to grow and Christian Scott appears to be determined to see it grow in all directions except backwards.

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