He may only be in his early twenties, but trumpeter Christian Scott is that rarity in the jazz world: a player who possesses the potential for massive appeal while representing no artistic compromise. Don't let the fact that his debut, Rewind That, was nominated for a Grammy scare you off. This is an artist who is not only a remarkably mature player and writer, but one who has his fingers in a variety of styles while never sounding anything less than completely focused.
While an artist of his youthful vintage will, no doubt, be affected by contemporary grooves and hopefully more than a passing acquaintance with the conventional jazz tradition, the fusion edge that crops up on this set of largely original tunes is an unexpected surprise. The dark groove of the title track, with Zaccai Curtis' atmospheric Fender Rhodes, guitarist Matt Stevens and bassist Luques Curtis' riff-based support and drummer Thomas Pridgen's snappy, Billy Kilson-like attack, provide a foundation for Scott's economical, compositionally focused solo. If Scott's the star of this show, Stevens is a close second, delivering solo after solo of imagination and energyJohn Scofield's grit crossed with Kurt Rosenwinkel's oblique angles and early John McLaughlin's harsher edge.
The even more energetic "Say It revolves around an alternating 7/4 and 9/4 pattern, Scott reaching into the upper register to prove that, while the influence of Miles Davis is undeniable, so too are others, most notably Clifford Brown and, of more contemporary vintage, fellow New Orleans natives Nicholas Payton and Terence Blanchard. But even when he reaches for the high notes, Scott's sound remains unusually warm, largely due to emulating an unrecorded technique of Brown's that, as Scott explains, "instead of blowing cold air into the instrument...squeezed out warm air from his diaphragm that created a more breathy tone.
The other star of Rewind That is tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, whose own Casually Introducing Walter Smith III (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2006) was an impressive debut. On the initially relaxed "Rejection, Smith's solo turns up the heat before settling back down for Scott's entry.
Uncle and renowned altoist Donald Harrison guests on three tracks, including his own "Paradise Found. While Harrison's attempts to expand beyond the mainstream have been met with some resistance by fans who don't want to see him shed his post bop clothes, here he's able to do so without criticism since it's not his project, and it makes one wish fans could leave their preconceptions behind. On a funkier update of Miles Davis' "So What Harrison follows his nephew's appropriately spare, mid-range solo with his own reflection of an edgy funk that suits him well indeed.
In many ways it's better that Rewind That didn't win that Grammy. Being nominated brought well-deserved attention, but by not winning Scott remains unburdened by expectations for his next disc. With as strong a debut as Rewind That, one can only guess what'll come next.
Track Listing: Rewind That; Say It; Like This; So What; Rejection; Lay in Vein; She; Suicide; Caught Up; Paradise Found; Kiel.
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; Donald Harrison: alto saxophone (4, 8, 10, 11).