A Wall Becomes A Bridge (Mono) Kendrick Scott Oracle
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Info zu A Wall Becomes A Bridge (Mono)
Drummer and composer Kendrick Scott kicked off his Blue Note contract four years ago with We Are the Drum. Expertly produced by Derrick Hodge, Scott’s creative confidant and musical brother, and featuring a stunning guest performance by vocalist Lizz Wright, it earned rave reviews and reiterated how Oracle, Scott’s long-running working group, is one of the most thoughtfully powerful jazz bands of its generation.
When it came time to follow this success up with a new effort, however, Scott felt stuck. Nothing he wrote or played seemed good enough; self-doubt had formed a blockade where inspiration once flowed. But, as Scott points out today, “Wayne Shorter says there’s always something unfolding on the other side of the negative.” Hodge, who’d signed on again as Scott’s producer, witnessed what the drummer was putting himself through and had a similar realization. For years Hodge has been dedicated to shaping Oracle’s sonic identity, even relinquishing his role as the band’s bassist to work behind the scenes. Scott calls him “the sixth member of Oracle.”
“Derrick said, ‘We need to tap into your fears and insecurities and make some art about them,’” Scott recalls. “That was amazing to me—that he got me out of my own head.” Scott gathered up the compositions he’d been working on—both finished and unfinished—and headed into the studio, where “Derrick and the band helped me unfold them, and they became the record that you hear.”
That gorgeous new Blue Note album from Scott and Oracle is called, not incidentally, A Wall Becomes A Bridge. And the implications of that title aren’t exclusive to Scott’s artistic breakthrough. “A Wall is a provocation,” Scott says, adding that he “loves to create things for conversation. So I also wanted the idea to speak about a certain president.” Many of us would argue that 45 is all wall and no bridge, but Scott sees a silver lining in this increasingly absurd political age. “With all of these different issues coming to the forefront, we can now say, ‘Things like systemic racism still exist and we need to deal with them.’ More people are paying attention to the government, and that level of intensity is what we need—as is that level of intent in how we vote and how we live and how we treat others. All of those things are a bridge.”
An even more essential part of why this 12-track song cycle is so affecting lies in its ability to be interpreted. A musical and metaphorical journey in reverse, it arrives with a bridge and voyages back toward its beginning as a wall. Along the way, a gamut of themes is explored, including innocence (“Archangel”), acceptance (“Windows”), fear and insecurity (“Voices”) and resistance (“Plēh”—or help spelled backwards). “I want listeners’ imaginations to run wild,” Scott explains. “I want them to think about, ‘What does this mean to me and my community? What does it mean to our country and the world at large?’”
These performances—these soundscapes—certainly provide an occasion for searching and reflecting. Oracle’s peerless lineup includes the pianist Taylor Eigsti who Scott calls “the engine of the band”—a virtuoso with a keen sense of time, and a natural, good-humored communicator on and off the bandstand. Bassist Joe Sanders, as Scott puts it, is the “embodiment of innovation,” at once a stalwart anchor who understands that less is more and a supremely gifted melodic voice who belongs in the frontline. Scott met his guitarist, Mike Moreno, at age 14, when both were students at Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, the venerated incubator for jazz talent like Jason Moran, Robert Glasper, Chris Dave and Eric Harland. “I kind of started the band around Mike,” Scott recalls. “He’s always been an inspiration to me.” Moreno’s playing here is equal parts expressive grace and jaw-dropping mastery. But it’s a similar sense of aesthetics that might be Moreno’s most crucial contribution to Oracle; namely, Scott and Moreno share an ongoing search for the space between Brazilian geniuses like Milton Nascimento and the icons of postbop. On tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet and alto flute is John Ellis, a still-underrated musician whose staggering range of abilities extends from jazz’s deepest roots—Scott met him while on tour in New Orleans—to its state-of-the-art, 21st century harmonic and rhythmic language.
Within that singular meld of talent on A Wall Becomes A Bridge is a secret weapon: the turntablist Jahi Sundance, whose credits include high-profile hip-hop production as well as tour-DJ duties for Glasper, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Meshell Ndegeocello. On both interlude-esque cuts (like “BeLoved,” a near-psychedelic probe into trust and vulnerability) and longer explorations like the meditative opener, “New Eyes,” Sundance immerses his own artful craft into the musicianship that surrounds him. (In many band-plus-DJ situations, Scott argues, “the band plays on top of what the DJ’s playing. Jahi was inside of Oracle.”) What’s more, Sundance was able to internalize the concepts and purpose behind Scott’s new work, as well as the genre-bending mission that has defined Oracle from the start. With brilliant oversight from Hodge as producer, the sessions became unprecedented aural experiences. “What he added really makes you contemplate what the record means,” Scott says. “The sound of it and the sonics. [Jahi is] like a bridge.”
As far back as he can recall, Scott, who was born in Houston in 1980, has imbued his music with deeper meaning. “Coming up in church,” he says, “you played music for a message; you played music for a purpose. Oracle lives in that space, no matter what we’re playing.” Like his fellow Houston drum greats Harland and Jamire Williams, Scott grew up with a mother who was an acclaimed gospel choir director. On top of that bedrock, he developed his technique through private mentorship and public jazz education, spurred on by an environment of fierce but brotherly competition. He moved to New York in 2003, and raised his profile performing and recording for Blue Note in trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s band (with future Blue Note artists Hodge, pianist Aaron Parks and guitarist Lionel Loueke).
“I was receiving so much information from Terence on bandleading and writing,” Scott recalls. “He was saying, ‘Take that opportunity and try to lead your own band.’ I credit him with giving me that kick in the butt.” He debuted as a bandleader with 2006’s The Source, released through his own World Culture Music label, and in 2009, the New York Times featured him in a piece entitled “Five Drummers Whose Time Is Now.” In the ensuing years, his reputation as one of the premier drummer-composers currently in jazz has only grown.
Throughout his time at the helm of his own group, Scott has employed the lessons he’s learned as a sideman working with jazz’s great bandleaders. Like Blanchard, Scott encourages his players to exercise their personalities and to contribute music. (A Wall Becomes A Bridge features tunes by Eigsti, Moreno, Hodge, and Parks alongside the drummer’s writing.) He has also performed regularly as part of Charles Lloyd’s band, and has adapted the tenor legend’s sense of trust and intuition to define Oracle. “The main thing I learned from Charles is that everybody needs to take ownership,” he says. “I feel like what makes Oracle Oracle is that each member has ownership of the band. They have ownership of the music and ownership of the intent.”
Kendrick Scott, drums
Jahi Sundance, dj
Mike Moreno, guitar
Taylor Eigsti, piano
John Ellis, saxophone
Joe Sanders, double bass
Kendrick ‘KADS’ Scott, born July 8, 1980, and raised in Houston, Texas, is an artist of incredible depth, talent, and determination. He has been featured in Terence Blanchard’s band for the last six years and has appeared on the Grammy Award-winning and nominated recordings, A Tale of God’s Will, and Flow, on which he contributed original compositions and orchestrations. Since arriving in New York City in 2003, Scott has appeared on more than 30 records as a sideman, and on the soundtracks to seven feature films. He is recognized as an endorser by Yamaha Corporation, Remo, Vater, Puresound, Sabian, Protechtor, Craviotto Snare Drums and Danmar Percussion.
However, touring the world and recording with the likes of Blanchard, as well as Herbie Hancock, John Scofield, Dianne Reeves, Maria Schneider, Wayne Shorter, Angelique Kidjo, Bilal, Christian McBride, David Sanborn, John Patitucci, The Crusaders, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Robert Glasper, Stefon Harris, Kenny Garrett, Pat Metheny, Nicholas Payton, Patti Austin, Gretchen Parlato, Lionel Loueke, Roy Hargrove, Raul Midon, Taylor Eigsti plus playing on numerous film soundtracks by Spike Lee and other filmmakers, is not nearly enough for the uber-talented 29-year old.
While excelling in the business of playing music, Scott decided to plunge head first into the business of running a record label. In preparation for his debut recording as a leader, the drummer discovered the need for himself and other artists to have a new platform from which they could release their music. Scott also had no desire to place the destiny of his first recording in the hands of a traditional record label. In 2007, he launched World Culture Music with the release of Kendrick Scott Oracle – The Source.
Kendrick Scott grew up in a household of musicians and first encountered the drums in church, where his parents and older brother were involved in the music ministry. By age six, Scott’s parents (Stepheny and Kenneth) could see that the young man’s interest in the drums was not a passing fancy, so they set him up with sticks, a pad and lessons. “As a kid, I remember listening to the music at church and feeling chills in my body. I knew then, that music was my calling.” Years later his hard work, and the great support of his family, enabled Scott to attend Houston’s renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (other graduates include Robert Glasper, Chris Dave, Mike Moreno, Jason Moran, Eric Harland, Beyonce and many others). While a student, he won Downbeat Magazine student awards, plus the Clifford Brown/Stan Getz award, presented by the IAJE and the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts. He was later awarded a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music where he majored in Music Education. “Going to Berklee was pivotal for my growth as a musician. I met so many great amazing musicians and friends,” he exclaims. As an undergrad, Scott gigged with Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, and Kenny Garrett. Upon graduation, he already had offers from Joe Sample and Terence Blanchard.
The title track of his debut CD, The Source, was originally recorded on Terence Blanchard's 2005 record, Flow, for Blue Note Records. Flow features Scott as well as pianist and producer Herbie Hancock who plays on Scott's composition. "Being a part of Terence's group for seven years has been a godsend. He has given the members of the band freedom to grow and cultivate our voices. When we went in to record ‘The Source’ Herbie said he would play on it; one can only imagine how I felt." If that weren't enough, Scott's composition was the Grammy nominated track (for Hancock's solo). "I knew when I went in to record my record that 'The Source' would be the title track. It's is an homage to humanity. While the world is at unrest, I believe compassion will prevail." Kendrick Scott is one of the bright stars in an amazingly talented group of young drummers on the scene today. He remains a first call player for major artists because his humanity and compassion extends into the notes and phrases he chooses to play, which makes his playing consistently ring true as it springs forth from an ego-less, honest place. These deep roots, connected to his mentors, inspirations, peers, his parents and to the church, enable Scott to be present and in the moment, bringing to the table the wisdom of a veteran musician and the adventurousness of a perpetually curious young artist.
In the words of Terence Blanchard, "Kendrick is a true artist of the highest order. He is not bound by the conventional wisdom of the music world. I've noticed that he never says why, but rather why not. He is exactly what the music world needs: someone with the vision and courage to press forward and expand the world of music. I am blessed to have him around and look forward to seeing what he does every time we play.”
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