On Christian Scott

Patrick notes the mounting buzz over trumpeter Christian Scott and his forthcoming Yesterday You Said Tomorrow. I’m still getting to know the record, didn’t flip over it at first listen, but it’s clearly the work of someone with high skill and strong vision — exactly the sort of hip, relevant, advanced, forward-thinking music that Stuart Nicholson believes to exist only in Europe.

Scott came onto my radar when I saw him as a sideman with Donald Harrison in Marcus Garvey Park several years back, and he seemed to be coming out of the straightahead, specifically New Orleanian, Wynton/Terence Blanchard bag, which he did very well. So I was surprised and very much impressed by his 2006 debut Rewind That, which had more of a “nu jazz” aura but still rang true creatively. Regarding Scott’s cover of Thom Yorke’s “The Eraser” from YYST, contra Eamonn Featherston, I might actually like it better than Yorke’s original. (Yorke’s solo album never really wowed me.)
I have to say that in this interview, Scott comes across as a young guy enjoying some early media attention and lashing out at his mentors in a way he might one day find embarrassing. Explaining that he wouldn’t pen a musical homage to Hurricane Katrina’s victims, having not experienced the tragedy directly himself, Scott takes aim at Terence Blanchard for doing just that with A Tale of God’s Will. Scott says:
It was like, ‘OK man, alright, I know you weren’t in New Orleans when it happened, you know, you’re very well paid, everything is alright, your house didn’t get touched by an inch of water—I know it ’cause I know where you live, I’ve been to your home!’

If memory serves, there is a scene in Spike Lee’s “When the Levees Broke” that deals with the fact that Blanchard’s mother’s home was destroyed in the flood. Blanchard’s family’s life was turned upside down. Everything was not alright. There’s more than a touch of unthinking arrogance in Scott’s remark.
Scott goes on to complain:
When [Blanchard’s A Tale of God’s Will] came out, everyone kinda jumped on the bandwagon, and sort of made my album [2007’s Anthem] synonymous with it. And that pissed me off! I was very angry.

Translation: It’s all about me — a view not unheard of among twentysomethings. Maybe, just maybe, there was something more at stake here than the critical reception of Scott’s second album. And think of the many fine jazz artists of Scott’s generation who’d be happy to be saddled with the problem of too much critical notice.
Scott is not one to shy away from politics, with titles such as “K.K.P.D.” (Ku Klux Police Department), “Angola, LA & The 13th Amendment,” “American’t” and “Jenacide.” Yet more refutation of the charge that today’s musicians are disengaged, apathetic, timid, what have you.
One problem: It’s true that the Jena Six controversy involved vile incidents of anti-black incitement and glaring legal double standards. But I’m not sure what Scott intends by invoking genocide through wordplay (“Jenacide”) here, since no one was killed in Jena, and the one person in the whole affair who was stomped and put in the hospital was white. If I’m missing something, then I’ll be happy to amend my thoughts on this.

3 Responses to “On Christian Scott”

  1. Michael J. West says:

    Nice piece. I liked this:

    "a young guy enjoying some early media attention and lashing out at his mentors in a way he might one day find embarrassing."

    …which struck me as something I've heard before: a pretty frequent and accurate description of Wynton in his early interviews. (And Branford in more than one contemporary interview.)

    But yeah, I prefer to focus on YYST, which I believe to be the first great album of 2010. I hope to listen to it again as soon as I'm out of this damned hotel room.

    Sorry. Venting. You understand.

  2. David R. Adler says:

    Oh man – when are you getting out of that hotel room?

  3. Michael J. West says:

    If only I knew, my friend. If only I knew.

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