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Kendrick Scott: Oracle for Good Music

By Published: May 29, 2007
Scott had musically influential friends back in Houston, but the first influences were his parents. His mother was a classical pianist, educated at the University of North Texas. His brother is a pianist himself and organist. His father played trombone throughout college. The family was heavily involved in the church and in gospel music. That was also the music usually heard around the Scott household.

Kendrick started drum lessons at age six and played the drum kit. But he laughs at how his fondness for drums progressed.

"The crazy thing about Texas is: high school football and high school bands are off the charts. So I wanted to be in the high school marching band. And I wanted to play snare drum, because the snare drums were the most virtuoso drummers that I had seen. There was a certain band that I wanted to join because they had the hottest band in Houston. So I said 'Man, I want to play snare drums.' When it was time to go to high school, I had to make that decision ... My mother was like, 'Are you thinking about becoming a professional snare drum player?' I didn't see any professional snare drums. So she said I had to go to the performing arts high school."

In getting his act together for that, Scott got into jazz. "I got my audition together. I went in and I played 'Seven Steps to Heaven' and ever since, that was it. It started right there. It was one of those things where I was talented enough to get into the school, and then being at the Performing Arts High School being around so many guys and being given so many opportunities from Bob Morgan, our teacher. Everything just kind of fell into place.

Such was the wealth of musical talent in Houston that his earliest influences on drums were hometown friends Chris Dave and Eric Harland, both prominent in the current music scene. "Then checking out records by Max Roach, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, all those guys, says Scott. "People like Shadow Wilson. Drummers that don't get recognized much. Roy McCurdy. I used to makes tapes, go up in the library and listen to them at the school.

The high school was also an introduction to the real music world. "Our teacher actually went out and got gigs for us. We were playing gigs maybe three times a week. If we kept our grades straight, we actually played some gigs and make a little bit of money too, he chuckles. "That was more incentive to be on it with the grades, and also be on it musically. Our best combo would be the one to be doing all the gigs. We would do parties and functions. If you think about just the experience of going to a gig, being on time, being dressed, being ready to go. Also speaking with people, and everything, when you get there. We had those experiences in high school, and some people don't even have that when they get out of college. Those were great experiences.

His high school career included student awards given by Downbeat Magazine and the Clifford Brown/Stan Getz award, given by the International Association of Jazz Educators and The National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts.

Outside of the drums Scott, like many others, was into the music of Wayne Shorter. But it was the sound of a band as a working and growing unit that also had a strong effect on the young drummer. "I'll tell you about the influence on the band. In Oracle, it has a lot of influences from things like the Pat Metheny Group, to things like Mark Turner and Kurt Rosenwinkel's group, things from Miles' band with Tony and Wayne and everybody, and Wayne and Herbie's music. A lot of Wayne Shorter, the feeling of his music. And also Brian Blade Fellowship.

"There are so many influences on me. I love Cannonball Adderley. I just love the sound of bands, not just all-star sounds where it's great people, but they're not all sounding as one. Ahmad Jamal's trio, that's a band. When I put that on, oh man. Everybody's working together. They all rise and fall together. So many other people's bands. Trane. All the greats. Freddie Hubbard.

After high school, it was off to the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston for young Kendrick. The experience was different than many, because he majored in music education, "which had nothing to do with jazz and pretty much nothing to do with playing the drums. So I would go to class and be learning how to finger the flute and how to conduct. Then at night I would play. All my other friends—besides Walter Smith. Walter was doing it too—were in the jazz department. It's funny that I wasn't in the jazz department. I had a few ensembles and things, but I was totally on the other side in school. But outside of school I was with everybody else. Part of that experience was hanging out with outstanding musicians like Lage Lund. Christian Scott, Jeremy Pelt and many more.

Scott didn't have to wait long after graduation to find work.

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