The superb TV series Treme, made by the the same guys who did The Wire, includes a storyline in which a young jazz trumpeter well-versed in the modern thing that goes down well in the Manhattan clubs, is prompted by his father, a leader in the Mardi Gras Indians, to feed some of that New Orleans tradition into his music – music which takes off as a result.
It’s not quite life imitating art, because trumpeter Christian Scott has always been aware of the tradition and the wider cultural landscape in which his music sits, but he appears on the cover of his new album in full Mardi Gras Indian regalia and the title shows his historical name and his embracing the West African past of his forebears.
He says: “The cover. The album. Everything represents the completion of my name… It’s just a way for me to tell the world that I accept all of my past and am willing to explore it. So in a sense, I haven’t changed my name. I’ve completed it to reflect another part of my ancestry and lineage – the part before Scott.”
It’s a huge album, two CDs and a solid two hours of music performed by a small band with a big sound. The accent is on drums of Jamire Williams with the pushing guitar of Matthew Stevens also playing a major role. But the trumpeter leads from the front, playing with extraordinary power and intensity. He includes a track of knowing rebuttal of some of his commentators called Who They Wish I Was, in which he plays muted trumpet in the Miles manner; who he really is is abundantly clear on the rest of the tracks which show a bright, clean tone, some very high playing and a passion which is far from cool or introverted.
The song titles acknowledge all kinds of happenings in the real world, few of them comfortable or reassuring. The opener, Fatima Aisha Rokero 400, refers to an atrocity in which 400 women were raped by soldiers in the Sudanese town of Rokero. But there is hope, too – The Berlin Patient (CCR5) is named after the AIDS patient who was cured via an experimental treatment.
Many titles refer to the New Orleans and African heritage in which this music digs down its roots, but it is thoroughly contemporary music with no pastiche of the past going on, and it should have wide appeal.
It’s interesting that while some other players have been rejecting the jazz word, Christian has found, through that New Orleans path, a way to incorporate it.
He calls it “a stretching of jazz, not a replacement. That is what I hope younger people will be able to take away from it as well – the idea that innovation should never be regarded as a problem in artistic practice, that one should always be aware of what has come before, and finally, that criticisms shouldn’t evoke paralysis but should inspire action.”
A very powerful call to arms, by a musician we will be hearing a lot more of. Hear’s a taste:
Christian Scott is supporting George Benson on his upcoming tour here, so you have a chance to hear him in these cities on these dates:
28 June Royal Albert Hall, London
29 June Town Hall, Birmingham
30 June The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
2 July SECC, Glasgow
3 July Royal Centre, Nottingham
4 July BIC Windsor Hall, Bournemouth