Christian Scott: A Warm Wind Blowing

 
I kind of see myself as one of those guys that's trying to usher in this new era without having preconceived notions about certain music being valid and other music not being valid.

-Christian Scott

 

The Baddest Young Cats

Christian Scott Band
Scott's band of heavy hitters includes guitarist Matt Stevens, tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, keyboardist Zaccai Curtis, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Jamire Williams. They have uprooted the jazz scene and left a wake of lovers and haters in their tracks. Scott's last two albums earned him his first Grammy nomination and the praise of many industry heavyweights. He recently shared the studio with Prince to record a few songs for Prince's next album and performed with Mos Def at his sold-out Highline Ballroom show. Scott hooked up with Concord Music Group on the recommendation of a distributor who witnessed the trumpeter and his band at a store in Boston.

Christian Scott isn't a showy player but that doesn't mean he plays with any less intensity. He references something his idol, Miles Davis, said, namely that you shouldn't play to the microphone because mics are more or less like mannequins - they never move, making it boring for the audience to watch. When Scott plays there's an aim to where his music is trying to go, so you see the sweat and intensity on his face. "When we perform live every night sounds different just because, first and foremost, we're improvising musicians and the aim for us is to change up the rhythms and the harmony and do different things that you don't find on the albums," says Scott. "Our live performance is probably ten times more intense than our studio recordings."

Scott's days on the road are busy. He wakes up at six every morning to write, practice and soundcheck. Then, after calls to his management, booking agent and publicist, it's off to the venue for his performance. "Most of my fondest memories of the road are of getting sleep," laughs Scott. "It's cool though. I welcome it. I chose to do this and I don't want anyone to ever think I'm complaining about it. I appreciate that this is my life, it's just that I don't get a chance to have much fun on the road."

His life got increasingly busy after his 2006 Grammy nomination. Before the nomination he recalls that, "It was a time when I could actually chill and hang out with my band. I have better memories right after the first record came out because it was my boys and I on the road, having a good time every night." It's clear he loves his band and values them as musicians. They have similarities to the '80s "Young Lions" movement associated with Wynton Marsalis. Scott and company are a new force in jazz leading this decade's young players. "I love the music that my band makes. I know that can seem incredibly narcissistic, but my band just happens to be the baddest young cats," Scott says. "It's our whole camp. Even if I could take my technique out of it, those guys can really play. All of the musicians in our age bracket are more or less looking to them for direction."

Playing The World's Anthem

Scott's first two records, Rewind That (released March 28, 2006 on Concord Records) and Anthem (released August 28, 2007 on Concord), are very different, both stylistically and politically. Yet, both move around the common thread of Scott's amazing tone. "My sound gets so much attention about it sounding like the human voice but there are so many layers to it," offers Scott. "I play especially piercing at times and high and very cutting as well. It's my way of screaming about the things that I don't like happening today."

Christian Scott
Many of the songs on Scott's latest release reflect a need to evolve. For instance, "Uprising" and "Litany Against Fear" ooze Scott's personal style. He felt that one of the main aims on the record was to call attention to the recent social and political downfalls of our country. Anthem is Scott's call for change.

"There has to be a change. Something has to happen for things to be okay," comments Scott. "I'm not saying we need to go back, but it has to be different from the way it is right now. I go all over the world and I'm always hanging out and meeting people. They each have stories and I see that everyone is vying for a voice. Each voice has a sense of urgency saying that there is something wrong right now that needs to be addressed. It's like dropping a glass in the room when everyone's talking about nothing."

There are clear differences between Rewind That and Anthem. The drumming on Anthem is much more reactionary. Rewind That's major voice had typically been played on the guitar but on Anthem it's the piano. "Conceptually we want to make music that affects our generation and achieves a mark of what was happening during this time that people can revisit," Scott says. "Even though the songs on Rewind That are from our life experiences, we were younger men and there were certain things that we weren't really thinking about when we recorded Rewind That that we do now. The compositions on Anthem are much more in-depth because the subject matter is darker and deeper."

Hurricane Katrina and a less than desirable socio-political climate are obvious recent influences, but his mother's battle against a rare disease was also on his mind. I asked Scott whether he thought that pain in life produced music with more depth and poignancy.

"I think it does, but I would also argue that certain types of extreme happiness probably have the same affect," observes Scott. "I think human beings are more susceptible to feeling things and processing or assimilating someone else's pain because their own painful experiences are more frequent than the happy ones. Most composers that have lived hard lives are typically better at emoting on a certain level, but not all across the board."

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