Randy Scott: From The Heart
“ The main thing that I wanted to do was put together a CD that I would buy. Therefore, this album definitely comes from my heart. ”
He is a three-time winner of It's Showtime At The Apollo, Winner of The Hennesy Jazz Search and protégé of his friend and mentor, the late Grover Washington, Jr. He is a dedicated teacher to middle school students and assists them on their musical journey and most importantlyhe does everything from the heart. His career is ever-flourishing and the best is yet to come.
AAJ Contributor Katrina-Kasey Wheeler spoke with Scott about his release, Breathe (MegaWave Records, 2007), and his dedication to his students.
All About Jazz: Who were your musical influences growing up?
Randy Scott: All of my friends were into Prince and artists like that. I however, was totally into Grover Washington's music.
AAJ: Did you come from a musical family? Was there anyone in your family that encouraged you to play music? How did you become interested in playing the saxophone?
RS: I started playing when I was about eight years old. My mother would put on his [Grover Washington's] albums and she encouraged me to play the saxophone. Not long after I selected the instrument, I was able to go to one of his concerts. At that time, I was living in Philadelphia, and the first time I saw him, I was blown away. I knew that that was what I wanted to do. We spoke when I was about twelve years old. I helped him produce a commercial for the Red Cross and we remained friends, he became my mentor up until his passing [in 1999]. The nice thing was that whenever he was in town, he would ask me to come up and play with him. He was by far, my greatest musical influence. I also really love and respect John Coltrane.
AAJ: I think it is amazing for you to have had such a wonderful opportunity. Your mother was very supportive of your choice to become involved with music.
RS: My brother sings and plays the piano, but we are the only musicians in the entire family.
AAJ: You are the winner of the nationally televised, It's Showtime at the Apollo, and winner of the Hennessy Jazz Search; how did all that come about?
RS: Actually I was at Michigan State at the time that the Apollo thing happened. I was there on a classical music scholarship. I started to get into jazz. I opened up a couple of shows for Sinbad the comedian. He suggested that I try and get on the show and at that time he was the host for the show. I made it onto the show and the funny thing about that experience is that, the show doesn't pay for your trip to New York, your lodging or anything. I was a college studentand it is crazy, but what I did is, I made flyers and posted them around the campus that said, "I will write your Valentine a song. Since Valentine's Day was approaching, it was perfect!
People would call me and set up appointments. I would walk through the snow with a radio and my instrument; I was going around everyone's dorms and playing for five dollars a song. That paid my way to New York.
AAJ: That is very resourceful. What a great idea to put your talent to use.
RS: It absolutely was. Not long after that, I sent in an audition tape to the Hennessy Jazz Search of myself and the band that I was playing with. We were accepted and it blew me away. But the Apollo thing is one of the scariest experiences. Everything that happens on the show is edited, so a lot of what happens is never shown on the televised show; so it is all the more terrifying. I didn't care if I won or not, I just didn't want to get booed.
AAJ: Has being in the Detroit area at all influenced you and the music that you create? So many great talents have been from the Detroit area.
RS: I am from Baltimore and I ended up staying in Michigan as a result of going to college in the area. I have been more influenced by musicians in Detroit than anywhere else. The musicians here are extremely talented and it is a shame that a lot of them are unheard of by the majority of people. A lot of them are better than some of the big name artists that are widely known. I am also influenced by the gospel side of things. I had the pleasure of working and going to school with J. Moss. I have also worked with Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin, and out of that experience I have just received two gold records and three platinum records. The gospel side of things has therefore been a large influence on my music, especially from an emotional standpoint.
AAJ: You can hear that gospel influence on Breathe. What was your vision for this album?
RS: The main thing that I wanted to do was put together a CD that I would buy. Therefore, this album definitely comes from my heart. It reflects where I am in my life. Most of the songs are up-tempo and that is a direct reflection of the way that I currently feel. For example, I have a daughter who is three years old and she brings me so much joy. When I was recording the record she was only one year old. Her first two words were, "daddy and "bye-bye, so I recorded that and put that into "Morgan's Interlude.
AAJ: "Bliss, which features guitarist Tim Bowman, is a great track. The two of you obviously work very well together.
RS: I started playing in his band about two years ago. I told Tim that I had a track that I wanted him to play on. He is so easy going that he agreed to do it right away. He liked the track so much, that he then asked me to produce a song on his record. The song turned out really well and so he had me produce about six or seven songs on the new record that he will be releasing soon. It has been an honor to work with him.
AAJ: I can imagine. You teach band at a local middle school and have been known to give your students opportunities to perform as the opening act for established artists.
RS: It is directly related to my professional career as a musician. I think that the biggest challenge for any teacher is to give jazz band as a class. Jazz band is usually before school or after school, one day a week. I have been fortunate to teach the class everyday as part of the regular school day. I think my administration sees the value of doing it. It wasn't always like that. I used to rehearse before and after school. I would have the students open a show for me and I would invite the entire community.
I started to get some really big gigs. I think the first was a gig with Najee. Even though they were middle school students, I felt that they could handle the challenge. I ended up charting out music for them with me as a soloist. I performed it with them and it went over really well and that led to them opening for Walter Beasley at one of his concerts, and that also went very well. From that experience they will be opening for Earl Klugh in November of this year .
AAJ: That is fantastic! It sounds like they are a group of very talented students.
RS: Middle school is only three years. So, the biggest challenge is that unfortunately a lot of the students leave and go to high schoolespecially if I have a class filled with eighth grade students. It can be very challenging when you have to prepare for a concert, but it is very rewarding; especially to see their faces as they walk into a sold-out auditorium. They see first hand the importance of practicing, which is what I drill in them everyday. When they see the outcome, it makes them want to practice even more.
AAJ: That is really great, especially in light of so many music programs that are cut every year from schools. It is so important for students to have these opportunities. You are a guest lecturer for a graduate course in jazz history at Central Michigan University. Is this something that you have wanted to explore?
RS: The jazz history course that I lecture for is a Masters program at Central Michigan University. I enjoy it, but I also enjoy taking a lot of that same material and sharing it with my middle school students, because a lot of them only listen to rap and hip-hop. For that reason, jazz seems to have become a lost art form and I want to definitely try to keep that alive.
I really appreciate the support that the fans have given me over the years. The first two CDs I released did not do very well. But, my fans have always been there regardless of how much airplay that I have garnered. I did a show not too long ago and someone had me sign a CD for them and it was my very first CDthat blew me away. To all my supportersthank you.
Randy Scott, Breathe (MegaWave Records, 2007)
Randy Scott, Words Unspoken (Orpheus Records, 2002)
Randy Scott, Future (Timbre Records, 1999)
Randy Scott, Randy Scott (R&R Records, 1994)
Photo Credit Courtesy of Randy Scott