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Christian Scott

Last Thursday the Christian Scott Band and Sean Jones Quartet played SF Jazz as part of their trumpet week. I don't know why they felt the need to pair Scott with another act. I've long said he is the next big thing in the music, and I'm sure he could have filled the room on his own. Sean Jones opened. When I read that he was a protégé of Wynton Marsalis, I had an idea of what the direction might be. Jones is a personable and polite young man, with excellent technique. The music was a careful recreation of Miles circa ESP (1965). That's generally about as modern as Wynton and his protégés allow themselves to venture. While pianist Orrin Evans and particularly bassist Luques Curtis tried to inject some individuality, the concept was so defined that the music felt flat, and ala Wynton, emotionless. Drummer Obed Calvaire, who is with the SF Jazz Collective, has impressive technique, but somehow just doesn't swing. Even a tune about despair, Dark Days, introduced with a brilliant quote from Winston Churchill ("If you are going through hell, keep on going") lacked feeling. All of which sparked a debate within me. Is it asking to much for a contemporary musician to be creative? Perhaps the brilliant explorations of the past can only be re-interpreted, like European art music? Well, one note from Christian Scott's horn dispelled that fear. Like all great improvisers, he has huge tone, and anger, joy, elation, and sadness can all be felt simultaneously. Young, handsome, angry, brilliant, and from New Orleans, no wonder Wynton can't abide him. He's the real deal. He's formed a completely new band, with the brilliant 23 year old Elena Pinderhughes on flute, Braxton Cook on alto, Cliff Hines on guitar, Lawrence Fields on piano, Kriss Fun on bass, and two incredible drummers: Cory Fonville and Joe Dyson. The music was loose and hot and funky. With the drummers laying down fresh versions of New Orleans funk grooves (always with a nod to Mother Africa) the soloists were free to explore everything from bebop to 12 tone rows. Prowling the stage and using off-mic technique frequently, Scott leads with confidence, affection, and humor. (Ala Miles, soloists are often pointed to on the fly). There will be new music! Viva Christian Scott!

As my dear late friend Butch Morris remarked, "As long as I'm a black man playing a cornet, I'll be a jazz musician in other people's eyes.  That's good enough for me.  There's nothing wrong with being called a jazz musician".  Amen.  In the history of Afro-American improvised music, most of the greats have stressed that they don't play jazz, they play Louis Armstrong, or Duke Ellington, or Miles Davis music.  "Call it whatever you want". as Miles said pithily after his performance at The Isle of Wight.  Cecil Taylor was denied a birthday celebration at Jazz at Lincoln Center years ago for having the temerity to say he didn't play jazz, he played Cecil Taylor music.  Readers of my blogs know how impressed I am by Christian Scott.  Young, angry, brilliant, the New Orleans trumpeter is the real deal, and the true successor to Miles.  Incorporating everything he hears, and not afraid to go outside and beyond the "tradition", including rock, hip hop, and classical music.  In his latest recording, the self-titled Christian Atunde Adjuah, there is a lengthy and brilliant essay "Letter to a Future Artist".  His main point being that "you can descibe me as a jazz musician, just don't define me as one.  Definitions being limited, and truly creative music of the time will transcend definition.  I think Butch would second that sentiment, and I imagine he would like Christian's directions in music.  The recording is a must have, and a must read.

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