The Van Dyck, Schenectady, NY
August 19, 2006
by Randy Treece
Billboard exclaims New Orleans bred Christian Scott's Rewind That as one of the ten best jazz albums of this year, and our own J. Hunter, albanyjazz.com cognoscenti, believes he may lead the wave of a "new coming" in jazz. After hearing this artist with his band of young jazz lions, I attest to both assessments. Even at the tender age of twenty-three, he is already a simmering light on the scene and making an indelible mark on the music.
Scott embodies that long legacy of great trumpet players that hail from New Orleans, the likes being Joe Oliver, Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong, one of the greatest influence in jazz, Wynton Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, Terrence Blanchard, Kermit Ruffin, Irving Mayfield, just to name a few. This young artist is a talent to behold, both musically and as an entertainer. Scott is fetching with an ebullient personality and an even broader smile, who loves to engage in stories about himself and his young cohorts. In fact, he is a natural storyteller and playful raconteur. What an audience loves most is his full-bodied, beautiful tone and his penchant for intelligent, well-articulated improvisation without succumbing to bombast and mountainous flurries of notes. His repertoire eschews the need to show off his fierce techniques just to impress; he just plays well, with creativity and verve. Even though there are many, varied influences bubbling to the surface, at certain intervals throughout the show, there were flashes of Freddie Hubbard when Scott buried the microphone into the bell of his horn, creating a muffled coloration on his voicing. Added to his many talents is his ability to compose engaging, modernistic, evolutionary, and evocative songs, a distinction of a great musician. He is creating his own inimitable body of work.
The band is a cadre of cool young cats that are talented, passionate, and love to groove; in fact grooving may be the trademark of this group. Once upon a time, swing was king in jazz; or there were the periods of bop, post bop, and free form intellectualism when the jazz musicians remained rigid and just played. Now, it is about the groove, made manifestly palatable by Scott's quintet. They "bobbed and weaved" to their hearts content with the audience infected by their visceral sway. Although the exuberant rhythms may be an anchor to the music, the ambrosian and cerebral compositions, comping, and chordal modulations that floated about the intoxicating meters were not sacrificed for the sake of the rhythm.
Luques Curtis, on an electric upright bass, and Andy Marsh, on drums, serve as the dynamic rhythmic tandem while keyboardist Zaccai Curtis and guitarist Mark Stevens cultivate a garden of redolent sounds. But, Mark Stevens' unique guitar musing is an essential ingredient to the quintet's wildly imaginative sound, whether leading the charge on a song or laying rhythmic accompaniment behind the soloists. Louis Fouchette enriched the musical palette with an oddly-shaped sax that possesses an intonation Scott savors. Scott is always searching for a sui generis sound. The instrument looks like a tenor sax straightened out except for a slight curvature at the bell and sounds like an alto. The instrument is actually called a saxello, but those who are familiar with Rahassan Roland Kirk may remember his moniker for this novel sax as either a "manzello" or a "stritch" Even though Fouchette was playing the saxello live for the first time, it was done with great facility and credibility.
We were first regaled with an original, yet unreleased composition entitled "The Lions Are In the Ninth Ward, New Orleans", and, boy, were these young cats gigging. The rousing tempo was initiated by bassist Curtis with the other members conforming to the groove rendering an energetic, even volcanic, exposition on New Orleans's turmoil. Fouchette meted out a muscular, sax gyrating solo that was engrossing and Scott delivered a big fat sound coupled with a discretionary dictionary of notes.
The next, and yes another new song, inspired by Scott's dream about being a father to a baby girl, named for the time being, "Katrina", maintained the groove, though a slower tempo. It had a Grover Washington specter to it. Marsh, a steady-time master, never relented on the groove throughout the entire show and he was the linchpin on this track. All of the musicians summoned well-conceived solos with some interesting interplay among them.
The band on occasion made references to some well known R&B tracks. On the next cut, whose title escapes me, a searing and zesty song wherein bass and drum never defaulted on their groove assignment, a listener could hear a mirthful infusion to a 70s R&B anthem. While Scott's fiery trumpet soared, and the keyboardist, sounding like Joe Zawinul, ambient a chromatic texture, the band gave a nod to Sly Stone's "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey" rhythmic refrain.
Mark Stevens' contemplative introduction set the tone on the haunting, darkly colored, "Rejection". A listener cannot help being swept away by Luques Curtis' sturdy bass line, Scott's reliance on languid, breathy long notes and Fourchette's parrying with an equally sonorous tone. What a wonderful change, adding some musical eclecticism to the evening.
The first set concluded with the title track "Rewind That". The song begins with a phenomenal guitar riff on this bi-musical - rock/jazz creation - reminiscent of a later Miles origination or the early fusion years, that was just riveting. Marsh's drumming was unbridled, poly-rhythmic ecstacy. The solos stretched to sweeping contours and the song was the anticipated highlight of the evening.
These young cats were having a blast and they allowed the audience to be the proverbial "fly on the wall" in their revelry. If some felt that jazz had entered into a sterile impasse with no new direction on the horizon, think again. The Christian Scott Quintet will disabuse you of that sentimentality and give you hope. The jazz tradition of exploring new musical vistas and improvisation is safe with them.
Randy Treece is an avid and ubiquitous fan of jazz music, especially on the local scene. For many years he has contributed jazz artist reviews for "A Place For Jazz "and has written album reviews on request by jazz artists. Randy resides in Albany.