Kendrick Scott: Conviction of a Jazz Oracle
KS: That is actually a great question. The Source I felt was a project per se with my peers, an all-star project of my peers, even though we were not all all stars, we were very young artists. But I felt that was kind of a coming-out party for me. I called all of my musician buddies and said, "Let's get together and make some music." I have been writing music since I was in high school. I wrote the song "VCB" with [pianist] Robert Glasper when we were in high school together. This record, in particular, if you noticed, what I wanted to have was a band sound. I wanted all the names to be solidified as a band, not only as a group of many peers but a quintet sound. I wanted to connect with John Coltrane's quartet. When you think about A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1965), you think about music by a quartet by like-minded people, and I wanted Conviction to be like that. We wanted to take you on a seamless journey, like A Love Supreme or Marvin Gaye's Here My Dear (Tamla, 1978). You turn that record on, and you don't want to turn it off because it's done, you want it to keep playing. I wanted to have a band sound that was like that, that you connect with the band sound. And not only that, but I tried to choose the players that I play with more often in the city, in New York, and I think that there is a certain band chemistry and trust there with each of these guys that afforded us a certain freedom in how they express and play my music, which for me is paramount because I don't write music to have it played the way it is written. I write it so that there is self-discovery by the musicians while they are playing it, inspiration. I think that it is the main difference between the two records. Conviction is more a band sound, and that is what I am working more toward, writing specifically for the people in this band. Joe Sanders, an excellent bassist; [guitarist] Mike Morenois an excellent musician; [saxophonist/bass clarinetist] John Ellis;[pianist] Taylor Eigsti; and Alan [Hampton]'s voice has a certain aspect to it that I had to use, so this record was written more specifically with those voices in mind, while the first record was just a lot of my songs that I had written and I wanted to document.
AAJ: It is so hard lately in the last few years to find bands injazz that are actually going to stick together. Everybody seems to be so self-involved in their own story and their own projects nowadays. Bands don't stick together like they used to.
KS: One of the things is that the climate of jazz has changed so much. When I think of those bands, like Cannonball's band, they would go to San Francisco and play there for three months; now those three-month gigs have turned into one-night gigs. So that continuity and that spirit of camaraderie that they got we have to create in a night's time or on the record. So I wanted to try to include that feeling in how we play music.
AAJ: What do you look for in your band members?
KS: Service. I am hugely into service. I think that if you serve the music, if you know how to listen to the music, then you know how to serve othersthat serving empathy that a great musician has, where anything that's happening, your awareness is hyped. I think that each musician that I have played with and that I learned being withTerence Blanchard and playing behind [singer] Diane Reevesthe greatest musicians are the ones with the more awareness, and I noticed that especially with [pianist] Herbie Hancock. Everything you are doing, he is listening to it, and he is always there to serve the music. It's the first thing that I noticed about playing with him. He was listening to me harder, I felt, than I was listening to him. Of course, all of my attention was on him, and I am listening as hard as I think I can, but yet he was playing things back to me in ways that were amazing. I could not believe it. So whenever I play with people, I just have to make sure that they have that same amount of service in their playing, where everything they do is for the greater good of the band.
AAJ: How hard is it to lead a band as a drummer?
KS: The funny thing to me is that the drummer is always the band leader! [Laughs.] Think about it. A drummer can make or break a band. I always feel that, especially playing with great musicians, each of us has a leadership role, each of us takes a leadership role, if there is no ego. That's another thing I look for in a musician. And in that service, that's what that is, the lack of that ego. So in a great band, each of us has that leadership already in place. If you notice, I play more for color than I do for anything. I play for melody, I play for harmonic motion, and I play for rhythm, too, but I want to paint a picturethat is the main thing that I want to do. So in the way I play things, it makes me lead because I can push the spectrum a little more and kind of push everybody in the back a little bit and then pull back and not play. I can play hard, or I can play to get away from the drum and leave the stage to everybody else. I think that's what leadership is. I think leadership also comes in letting the other guys be the leaders, knowing when to play and knowing when not to play. They may have to turn around and look at me sometimes, but that's about it.