Kendrick Scott, at 26, is already one of the very finest drummers on the jazz scene, possessing an open mind, a beautiful feel for melody and tasty style that fits a myriad of situations. He's been working steady with major jazz artists since the day he graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1998. He's grateful for it, but thoughtful about the situation and aware of the consequences that can occur with both ego and complacency. But those attributes don't appear to be a part of Scott.
He's aware. He's sensitive to the perils of the music business, but passionate about the art form. He hopes to help spread the art of the music and its healing and peaceful message to the world through his band and his own record label, guided by his love for the music.
"I realize I have to take initiatives to do the things that I want to do. Sometimes musicians can be complacent about the way they feel about their music or they way think everybody should recognize them for what they do, says Scott. "Sometimes that doesn't happen. Sometimes you have to put yourself out there first, then people can come around.
What Scott has done is put himself out there with a sparking debut album, The Source, on his own World Culture Music label. It features some of the finest young musicians on the New York City scene, a collective band he calls Oracle. Scott's precise and tasty drum work has been heard with the likes of the Crusaders, Terence Blanchard, Dianne Reeves, Maria Schneider, Nicholas Payton, David Sanborn, Mark Turner and many others, and it's present here as well.
But also on display is Scott's brilliant skill as a writer, particularly as an architect of beautiful melodies, the likes of which are not usually associated with drummers. Some of the compositions were written years ago. The album, a mixture of exquisite melodies that are the foundation for heady improvisations, is one of the finest of the year so far. Don't confuse great melody for "soft jazz. This is good music. Period.
"I really thought the best way to describe my music was not with one word or category. But it is jazz. It does have a lot of jazz influences. I developed some words, like: the music is lyrical. It has space. The music has momentum. It has a lot of contour. That's the way I explain the music to people, rather than saying it's jazz, because jazz has so many subtitles, which is the great thing about it, but sometimes you wouldn't know what it is.
"Sometimes I want to describe it as modern jazz. But even I, as a drummer and as a musician, have a hard time knowing what people are talking about when they say 'new jazz.' Cool and bop, you know those things. As far as trying to describe 'newer' or the latest music, it's kind of like, 'What do we call our music. What are we supposed to say about it?' That's why I've tried to develop those terms. I'm still working on my list. I'm going to try and come up with some more so people can say, 'Oh yeah. That's right on the dot.'
We all have snapshots of things in our lives that we leaf through from time to time, whether from nostalgia or feelings of melancholy, or one brought on by the other. Snapshots of growing up, of landmark moments in one's life. Events. Trips. For the multi-talented Scott, it takes on a bit of a different meaning. He likens the new recording to a snapshot of where he is at this time. If it is, it will be a great thing to look back on in later years. It is a harbinger of good things to come.
Scott has been the drummer with Terence Blanchard for the last four years. "He's been encouraging me to write more and to get my vision forth. This record is out is due to him saying there's never a right time to take a snapshot of yourself, says Scott. "So many people wait. The way he puts it is: Somebody pulls out their Polaroid... say you're in Rio at the beach with sand in your eyes and all ... if you wait too long you're going to lose the moment. So let's take a snapshot of that moment and then move on to something else. That's what this record is. It's a snapshot of me at this point. I'm really eager to do a new record already. I'm thinking about it, compositionally and concept-wise."
The title cut is a composition Scott wrote that appeared on Blanchard's Flow (Blue Note, 2005) produced by Herbie Hancock. The album received two Grammy nominations, one for best instrumental jazz album and another for best instrumental solo for Hancock's playing on Scott's composition. That was a thrill for the drummer, but the song title, now CD title, has a deeper meaning for this Houston native whose musical roots stem from the church.
"When we were doing Terence's record, we happened to be sitting in the control room. We said, 'Herbie, you want to play?' He's like, 'Yeah.' And we were like, 'Whoa! OK,' says Scott with a grin. "And he came in and sight-read it and we did two takes. It was so amazing for me to be around him and see how he sight-read it and created his own vibe on it within an hour or so.