Being a child prodigy can be both a blessing and a curse if you're serious about doing what you're good at. On one hand you catch the attention of the media and can score major label record contracts, on the other people judge you by a much finer-calibrated yardstick than musicians twice your age. The bottom line is that unless you're Mozart himself, you're probably going to start out good and get better over time, so maybe it's better for the rest of us not to study those talented youngsters too carefully. Step back and watch them grow up or burn out, however it works out.
Christian Scott is 22, comes from New Orleans, finished Berklee in half the normal time, and has already released a self-titled, self-produced debut. If this trumpeter had come out on Fresh Sound New Talent, he would have pulled plenty of ears in the indie jazz world. But Scott's second effort is going to draw a whole lot more of the spotlight, and you can bet that both he and Concord knew right away that they would be playing up his youth with this recording.
The opening title trackthe best thing on the recordsimultaneously whispers and screams, riffing off a distorted guitar right into a hard polyrhythmic funk groove, Scott blowing an oblique, incredibly fat-toned melody line on top. The smart, surreal contrast instantly recalls Ron Miles' now out-of-print masterpiece My Cruel Heart (Gramavision, 1996), which blended guitars, horns, bass and drums in the same twisted way.
Scott's other pieces (nine of these eleven tracks are originals) are also heavy on the groove, making full use of his band's electric instrumentation to pump out manly energy. Scott's trumpet, Walter Smith's tenor and Donald Harrison's alto glide and dart on top and around the blown-up rhythm section.
Unfortunately the general vibe tends to be a little too smooth at times, which flattens it and reduces excitement. "Like This," for example, could easily have dispensed with the rest of the band and substituted it with programming, for all the interest it generates. But the interwoven "Lay in Vein" is quite the opposite, so don't draw any hasty conclusions.
The really amazing thing about Christian Scott, all others aside, is his ability to play rounded, almost furry notes that just don't sound like they could come from a trumpet. And that ability allows him to bring amazing warmth to his music. As for the rest, let's see what happens next, but I suspect a lot of people are going to be listening to this guy.
Personnel: Christian Scott: trumpet; Walter Smith III: tenor saxophone (2-11); Matt Stevens: guitar
(1-3,5-11); Zaccai Curtis: Fender Rhodes (1,2,5,6,9), Wurlitzer (3,4,7,8,11); Luques Curtis:
acoustic bass (1,2,4-11), electric bass (3); Thomas Pridgen: drums. Special Guest Donald
Harrison: alto saxophone (4,8,10,11).