Monday, March 30, 2009

Christian Scott Rocks Out at Sculler's

Hey there all, I would like to apologize for the consistent inconsistency of this blog, and would like to say that it seems as though for the next few months it will probably be just as slap-dash, sporadic, and generally thrown together about two months after the last minute. I would say check back often for reviews and commentary, but the likelihood is that there will be nothing here. That said, I do have a review for you this time!

Also, a note for the haters: keep on hating, and keep on commenting about how much you hate me (I'm talking to you, vin); I suppose that the notoriety of being the worst blogger on the jazz blogosphere (Is there even a jazz blogosphere?) is probably enough to catapult me to a promising career as a jazz critic. So here's my review of Christian Scott's show at Sculler's, which is essentially a reprint of a review of that same show I wrote originally for The Berklee Groove.

With one notable exception, Christian Scott’s quintet did not swing on a single tune on Thursday May 26th at Sculler’s jazz club. Nor did they burn- at least in a traditional sense. With the exception of a cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Eye of the Hurricane,” taken at a breakneck pace, Scott’s group rocked out. Scott, possibly the best-dressed man in jazz, walked out sporting a near-trademarked pair of sunglasses and a collared shirt, waited for his band to set up their instruments, and immediately tore into the only new tune of the night, “Angola Louisiana and the 13th Amendment.” The tune, an elegy for a friend in prison, was loud and full of righteous anger.

Like his contemporaries Vijay Iyer and Andy Milne, Scott is clearly neither afraid to make topical music in the jazz idiom nor to mix jazz with R&B, Hip Hop, and loud rock music. Even Scott’s ballad, “Isadora,” was beautifully modern; drummer Jamire Williams’ incredibly intricate hip-hop brush-work somehow matched a traditionally gorgeous ballad solo from pianist Milton Fletcher.

According to Scott, this quintet is going to be around for a long time. “We’re bringing the band back,” he said. “A lot of times, you hear only about the artist, but the band is just as important. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if it weren’t for these guys.” Rounding out his group were the aforementioned Williams and Fletcher, in addition to bassist Chris Funk and guitarist Matt Stevens. Every member played an important part in the texture of Scott’s group; Stevens and Fletcher trading off on chordal duties, or playing single note grooves that recall a jazzier Radiohead circa “Kid A.”

The show was markedly different from the one documented in Scott’s most recent album, “Live at Newport,” due both to the lack of tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III and pianist Aaron Parks and to a crackling energy that could be felt in the audience at Sculler’s that was not to be found at Newport. Something about the intimate setting and the rapport between the five particular musicians on stage made Scott’s show one of the best I’ve been to in a long time.

By the time Scott made it to the anthemic “Litany Against Fear” and a raucous run through “Rewind That,” his two closest things to hits, it was clear that the audience was just as into the music as the musicians. There was shouting in the middle of solos and loud applause, and yet everything from the stage was audible due to Scott’s band’s propensity for making loud music. “Litany Against Fear” was absolutely transcendent, featuring a constantly shifting drum solo from Williams and some knotty lines from Scott, but the best solo of the night came in the form of a block chord piano solo on “Rewind That.” Fletcher barely played any notes, but instead chose to tear the house down using odd rhythmic ideas from hip-hop.

Scott is without a question one of the great young jazz musicians right now, and this new quintet of his will be recording a new album in May. Don’t wait to hear the record, go see him live as soon as he comes back to Boston.

A review of Julian Lage's new album is forthcoming. Probably in a couple months. Sorry in advance.