n impatient piano begins jazz trumpeter Christian Scott’s second album, Anthem. Once it’s mirrored by an electric guitar, though, over time it begins to sound scared and small. And then, halfway through, piano, guitar, and cornet all combine—in defiance. The track is called “Litany Against Fear.” The album is Scott’s response to Hurricane Katrina.
Admittedly, this has little to do with this website’s audience. There’s rarely anything approaching free jazz territory nor is there a host of post-production trickery. Scott is a trumpeter in the tradition of Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way period—there is a tension between classic be-bop forms and modernity (in this case, hip-hop and funk), but it’s no, say, E.S.T.. Don’t let that put you off, though. Scott has plenty of chops and, crucially, he knows how to use them.
“Re:” is a tour de force of strident playing, culminating in a powerful climax, with Marcus Gilmore using his drum sticks to imitate a DJ’s scratching at the end of each line. Gilmore is an important player throughout, moving from the from the sparse “Cease Fire” to the rock-oriented “Dialect” easily. Pianist Aaron Parks is significant as well. He wrote “The Uprising,” which includes keening synths, and his ability to match Scott’s various moods is nothing short of incredible.
The album closes on two very different notes. “Like That” is the epitome of smooth jazz. It begins with a lite, funky beat and twinkling keys. It’s stupidly simple and, yet, Scott brings it to life with his deep and resonant flugelhorn tone. (By song’s end, he’ll have you thinking that maybe Kenny G isn’t such a wuss after all.) To leave us with it, though, would be to ignore the realities of the world. And so Scott returns to his “Anthem” theme and impressively vibes off the impassioned poetry of X-Clan vet Brother J.
It’s a downer of an ending, but it’s also the sort of complex and thoughtful piece that Scott is quickly becoming known for. Scott once said in an interview something to the effect of “I can swing. I love to do it. But why bother when everyone else is doing it already?” It’s a guiding principle that’s allowed Scott to take cautious steps towards a variety of genres that would never otherwise get drafted into the jazz idiom nearly as smoothly. From a jazz perspective, that’s pretty exciting stuff. From a music fan’s perspective, it’s simply great jazz.
Reviewed by: Herman Thader
Reviewed on: 2007-10-08