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!