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Kendrick Scott: Oracle for Good Music

R.J. DeLuke By

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"But the significance of the title is: I think everybody has their own source. I never want to try to create absolutes. That also has to do with the concept of the band itself, Oracle. The band sends out messages; it relays a message to you like the Jazz Messengers. That's where I got the inspiration for the name, from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. The band is named Oracle, because we send out the messages to the people. We let you find your own answers. The oracle doesn't give answers, just questions for you to think about. The source is a general umbrella. It can be your god, it can be your family, it can be music, it can be art. It can be whatever. It all deals with your personal source.

From the opening of the first song, "View From Above, the CD sets moods, paints pictures. It has delicate intricacy, and moments of intensity. Scott propels it all with his typically tasteful drumming, knowing when to caress and when to create tension and bombast. Highlights include "Memories Wavering Echo, which Scott starts out on mallets, making the drums sound like ocean waves crashing on the shore. The bass clarinet of Myron Walden is evocative and pianist Aaron Parks gets sounds that, to these ears, could be that of dolphins or other life in the mysterious deep. Majestic and eerie at first, it swells into a musical exploration.

"Journey is a sweet melody with a memorable vocal by Gretchen Parlato, embellished by guitar and sax. "The Source starts out serenely and builds with intensity, even as the melody remains. Scott's drums beneath vocalizing and other solos are superb.

At no point are the drums the focus, and it would be difficult to guess that the CD comes from a drummer.

Says Scott, "One of my main focuses was to make an album that was like that. Something that's funny about me is, the more I grow within myself as a person, the more I realize who I am. When I think about my drumming, I don't think of it as being virtuoso, like a lot of my friends are. I think about my drumming more as supporting a vibe or supporting melodies and songs. I grew up in the church where the melodies and the messages were the main thing that needed to be supported. The drums and everything was subordinate to the message. That's why I play the way I do and I write the way I do. I'm always being subordinate to the melody and the song.

"Most of my songs are actually songs that I've written by singing them. All of the songs I write I try to make them melodic and singable. The audience can go home and whoever is listening to the CD, they can sing the melodies easily and be in contact with the vision.

When Scott made the decision it was time to record, he went for it. "It seems like everyone is sitting around waiting for a record. I felt that vibe from a lot of people. I didn't want to do that. So I said that when I do this record, I'm just going to do it on my own. I'm not going to worry about producers or worry about trying to get signed with a record company. I just wanted to put the CD out and put the music out. It also led me to start my label, World Culture Music, which is a collective label. We're all making our CDs the way we want to make them. We're all bringing them together under World Culture Music. It's not a traditional record label.

Scott says the CD is a culmination of music that he started writing as far back as high school. Over the years, he felt the compositions weren't really good enough to come out and not representative of something he might want to play on the drums. They weren't set up as a drum showcase. "But then, you grow older and you start realizing things. It's like, 'Wow. These are actually cool songs.' You just need to play the message, play the song, instead of worrying about trying to feature yourself.

Many of the musicians, too, came from early parts of Scott's life in Texas.

"The record is amazing because the guys on the record have come from all parts of my life, new periods and early periods, he says. "Robert Glasper [piano], Walter Smith [sax], Mike Moreno [guitar], we went to high school together at a school called the Houston School for Performing and Visual Arts. The school is very significant in that Jason Moran went there. Brian Michael Cox went there, he's a famous producer now, with Mary J. Blige and Usher, and writing songs for them. Also Beyonce Knowles went there. Texas is very fertile with talent.

From Blanchard's band there is Derrick Hodge [bass] and Aaron Parks [piano] and Lionel Loueke [guitar]. "I also went to Berklee with Lionel and Lage Lund [guitar]. Seamus Blake [sax], we have known each other for a while, but we never played together until the CD. Walter Smith was unavailable to finish the CD. So I wanted to call somebody that I love and I called Seamus. Myron Walden [sax] I've known for a while. Gretchen Parlato, we actually moved to New York at the same time.


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