Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Christian Scott: Blow4blow

Chrisitain Scott
Chrisitain Scott Chrisitain Scott Chrisitain Scott Chrisitain Scott

Having been prestigiously dubbed both “the most important innovator of his generation” and “jazz’s young style god”, 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 ‘Yesterday You Said Tomorrow’.

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in March 1983, Christian’s 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 Year’s Eve 1998. Releasing his first solo album (‘Christian Scott’) in 2002, Scott (who’s 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 ‘Rewind That’.

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

“Well, my grandfather had an IQ of like 147!”, begins an instantly-affable Christian from his London hotel room: “You know, this guy was absolutely brilliant, and so he’d always force his grandchildren - who DIDN’T have IQ’s 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 didn’t FINISH your book, he’d be like ‘Yesterday you said tomorrow!’!... But then ANOTHER reason I chose that particular saying as the title was also because, on watching the news, what I’ve 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 they’ve not been ERADICATED! And so the main reason I ended up calling it ‘Yesterday You Said Tomorrow’ 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.”

Indeed, with Scott composing all the music bar two tracks (one of which being a cover of Thom Yorke’s ‘Erasure’), ‘Yesterday You Said Tomorrow’ takes aim at numerous injustices present in today’s society. The opener’s title ‘K.K.P.D.’, for example, stands for ‘Klu Klux Police Department’ in reference to what Christian calls the “phenomenally dark and evil” attitude by the New Orleans police towards its African-American citizens. Meanwhile, with ‘The Last Broken Heart’ being inspired by the debate over gay marriage, ‘The American’t’ reflects the negativity that persists in the aftermath of 2008’s history-making Presidential election.

“Well, before I made this album, I decided I was gonna listen to as much music as possible”, continues an ever-articulate Mr. Scott: “Because I wanted to find a period where there seemed to be a lot of people who’d 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.”

“So, 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 Davis’ Second Quintet or John Coltrane’s Quartet, and then marry that with the type of pallet that typified Bob Dylan’s albums of that era like ‘Blonde On Blonde’ and ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’. 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!”

Interestingly, Scott’s lofty ambitions for ‘Yesterday You Said Tomorrow’ 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: “Yeah, Rudy ties everything together. He’s equally as important to the process and the concept of the album as the MUSIC”, enthuses Christian: “Because, like you just said, he’s arguably one of the most prolific recording engineers of all time. In fact, I’ve actually read quotes where people are saying he’s the GREATEST engineer of all time - basically because the sound he created was the launchpad for so many great artists’ creativity. For example, if you listen to John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ on CD, you’ll 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 there…”

“You know, everything exists in its OWN SPACE”, he continues: “And, 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 I’d heard Randy had retired, at first I didn’t even think in a MILLION YEARS he’d 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!”

Meanwhile, in terms of the more contemporary artists Christian has worked with in recent years (Prince, Mos Def, Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs, etc), he closes our conversation with some interesting observations: “Well, 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, he’s the most talented human being I’ve ever been around, or seen, on any level. And, in terms of all those negative things people say about him, they couldn’t be further from the TRUTH! Like he’s sweet, he’s kind... And I don’t even know if he’s 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 I’ve been playing with are arguably people who’ve either changed, or significantly helped develop, the genre they’re in. So, whenever you’re dealing with those types of personalities, you’re obviously gonna have a pretty interesting time!”

Christian plays Ronnie Scott’s, London on February 1 and 2, 2010

Christian’s album ‘Yesterday You Said Tomorrow’ is released February 1 through Concord Records

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