Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Christian Scott: Blow4blow

Chrisitain Scott
Chrisitain Scott Chrisitain Scott Chrisitain Scott Chrisitain Scott

Having been prestigiously dubbed both âthe most important innovator of his generationâ and âjazzâs young style godâ, 26-year-old jazz trumpeter Christian Scott additionally draws inspiration from hip hop rhythms, deep-rooted blues, funk and alternative rock for his new, fourth studio album âYesterday You Said Tomorrowâ.

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in March 1983, Christianâs prodigious musical talent first emerged around the age of 12 after listening to the recordings of his uncle - jazz alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr., whose group he first performed live with on New Yearâs Eve 1998. Releasing his first solo album (âChristian Scottâ) in 2002, Scott (whoâs also become known for his keen fashion sense) has since gone on to collaborate with such musical heavyweights as rock-funk megastar Prince, neo-soul pioneer Jill Scott and conscious rapper Mos Def, while additionally receiving a Grammy nomination for his 2006 LP âRewind Thatâ.

Nevertheless, it was actually Christianâs grandfather that initially inspired the ear-catching title to his aforementioned latest album, whose instrumental intensity finds Scottâs horn-playing accompanied by guitarist Matthew Stevens; pianist Milton Fletcher Jr.; bassist Kristopher Keith Funn; and drummer Jamire Williams.

âWell, my grandfather had an IQ of like 147!â, begins an instantly-affable Christian from his London hotel room: âYou know, this guy was absolutely brilliant, and so heâd always force his grandchildren - who DIDNâT have IQâs of 147! - to read stuff like (French writer) Camus when we were like 10 years old! You know, it was like EVERY WEEK we had to read a different BOOK! And, if you didnât FINISH your book, heâd be like âYesterday you said tomorrow!â!... But then ANOTHER reason I chose that particular saying as the title was also because, on watching the news, what Iâve noticed is that most of the problems that have plagued the world in the past are actually still HERE! They may have been REFINED, but theyâve not been ERADICATED! And so the main reason I ended up calling it âYesterday You Said Tomorrowâ was because I saw that the problems of the past do directly affect everyone in the future, and that as people we can really make a concerted effort to try to CHANGE that.â

Indeed, with Scott composing all the music bar two tracks (one of which being a cover of Thom Yorkeâs âErasureâ), âYesterday You Said Tomorrowâ takes aim at numerous injustices present in todayâs society. The openerâs title âK.K.P.D.â, for example, stands for âKlu Klux Police Departmentâ in reference to what Christian calls the âphenomenally dark and evilâ attitude by the New Orleans police towards its African-American citizens. Meanwhile, with âThe Last Broken Heartâ being inspired by the debate over gay marriage, âThe Americanâtâ reflects the negativity that persists in the aftermath of 2008âs history-making Presidential election.

âWell, before I made this album, I decided I was gonna listen to as much music as possibleâ, continues an ever-articulate Mr. Scott: âBecause I wanted to find a period where there seemed to be a lot of people whoâd come to the realisation that they could use music as a means to change the world⦠And the period that l found illuminated that the most was the Sixties, especially in the context of the American social system.â

âSo, taking that into account, I wanted to create an album that related to the depth and subject-matter of the Sixties albums from people like Miles Davisâ Second Quintet or John Coltraneâs Quartet, and then marry that with the type of pallet that typified Bob Dylanâs albums of that era like âBlonde On Blondeâ and âThe Times They Are A-Changinâ. But, at the same time, I also wanted to create a landscape or a backdrop where you could immediately reference the fact that texturally what was going on sonically sounded like something from THIS time period... Yet I also still wanted - and this was of paramount importance - to actually record it like it was recorded in the SIXTIES! So what this album basically represents is a huge marrying of all those things!â

Interestingly, Scottâs lofty ambitions for âYesterday You Said Tomorrowâ have arguably been realised with the aid of veteran jazz engineer Rudy Van Gelder (of John Coltrane/Miles Davis/Herbie Hancock fame), in whose Englewood Cliffs studio it was recorded: âYeah, Rudy ties everything together. Heâs equally as important to the process and the concept of the album as the MUSICâ, enthuses Christian: âBecause, like you just said, heâs arguably one of the most prolific recording engineers of all time. In fact, Iâve actually read quotes where people are saying heâs the GREATEST engineer of all time - basically because the sound he created was the launchpad for so many great artistsâ creativity. For example, if you listen to John Coltraneâs âA Love Supremeâ on CD, youâll notice how the saxophone is on the left side; the drums are sort of in the middle but panned a bit to one direction; the piano is here; the bass is thereâ¦â

âYou know, everything exists in its OWN SPACEâ, he continues: âAnd, because Rudy basically figured out a way - unlike the people that had gone before him - to isolate all those instruments, you could hear exactly how they were communicating with each other. So part of the reason why those albums stand out, and are so captivating to people, is because of the way they were RECORDED... But having said that, because Iâd heard Randy had retired, at first I didnât even think in a MILLION YEARS heâd become part of this album! But then one day - out of the blue - I got a phonecall from my A&R at Concord Records, telling me Rudy Van Gelder had seen my DVD - and loved it so much that he basically wanted to come back out of retirement with this record!â

Meanwhile, in terms of the more contemporary artists Christian has worked with in recent years (Prince, Mos Def, Cypress Hillâs DJ Muggs, etc), he closes our conversation with some interesting observations: âWell, they were all different from each other - simply because the GENRES they all function in are different. And for me the situation with Prince was particularly illuminating. Because, in my opinion, heâs the most talented human being Iâve ever been around, or seen, on any level. And, in terms of all those negative things people say about him, they couldnât be further from the TRUTH! Like heâs sweet, heâs kind... And I donât even know if heâs AWARE of the type of trust he engenders in all those who are around him. But, having said that, I think pretty much ALL the guys Iâve been playing with are arguably people whoâve either changed, or significantly helped develop, the genre theyâre in. So, whenever youâre dealing with those types of personalities, youâre obviously gonna have a pretty interesting time!â

Christian plays Ronnie Scottâs, London on February 1 and 2, 2010

Christianâs album âYesterday You Said Tomorrowâ is released February 1 through Concord Records

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