Review: Christian Scott

Christian Scott. Photo Credit: Mike Stemberg
Christian Scott
(Jazz Cafe, 5th July 2012. Review by Alison Bentley)


"We love your energy!" trumpeter Christian Scott said to the mostly young Jazz Cafe audience, and the feeling was mutual. Scott plays with passion- a passion for social justice, for his own New Orleans Black Indian culture and for jazz.

His breathy 'whisper technique' was not heard so much in this gig. The gorgeous soft ballad Isadora, with its sweet modal chords, had Scott sounding like Miles from the My Funny Valentine era, or at times even ethereal, like Tomasz Stanko. But most of the evening we felt the full force of his customised trumpet, with its Dizzy-like bent bell.

His tune titles are mostly clever soundbites that express his anger at injustice, and these tunes bring out his clear tone and real fire. In Jihad Joe (in fast 7/4) and Danziger (a haunting rocky lament about a post-Katrina massacre) there were echoes of Miles' tone in You're Under Arrest, and Freddie Hubbard in Red Clay. (Scott recently played the Miles role in a Marcus Miller tour) The sudden huge leaps even sound like Kenny Wheeler at times. But Scott always sounds like himself, though he's steeped in jazz history. His fast chromatic runs and high growls and squeals drew wild cheers from the crowd. Scott introduced KKPD (Ku Klux Police Dept) with a story of his own experience of racism, and how he'd decided to turn his angry feelings into a tune. His blasting, crying, bluesy notes said it all, and again we cheered the sheer energy and skill of his playing.

Scott got us to sing a call and response chant from the Black Indian Mardi Gras tradition. He danced to Indian rhythms to introduce New New Orleans (King Adjuah Stomp) with its bounce beat, a kind of New Orleans hip hop. Drummer Jamire Williams played a powerful driving beat, very creative but never losing the strong groove. His fusion of African, Indian and jazz rhythms was essential to the band sound.

Scott's much funnier live than on paper and he introduced Canadian guitarist Matthew Stevens: 'You all know Toronto- you own that shit, right?' Stevens, who studied with Pat Metheny, brought his mentor's melodic style into some of his solos and also contributed a key element of the group's whole sound - indie rock. He named Arcade Fire as an influence, (or Radiohead?) and has a unusually grungy quality to his strummed chords, redolent too of Marc Ribot. UK ex-pat John Escreet also had some indie influences in his repeated chordal riffs, but was most exciting in his free-form forays creating dramatic cross-rhythms. It's always great to hear funky grooves on acoustic bass, and Kris Funn's subtle riffs and organic tone recalled Dave Holland's Extensions.

'We went a little nuts,' said Scott, and the audience woudn't let the band stop. There was a sense of something completely new happening musically- a virtuosic fusion of styles, led by Christian Scott's vision, worthy of New Orleans itself.

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