A highly regarded session drummer, Houston native Kendrick Scott intends his leadership debut to establish his composer’s chops as well. The only track on The Source with real personality, however, is “107 Steps” by Icelandic songstress Björk. Not that Scott doesn’t have great talent and skill for composing—quite the contrary, but he’s still finding his voice. Scott’s 10 efforts on The Source do have common elements: an easy, lyrical romanticism, cool in temperament but warm in mood, and touched by smooth-jazz and other crossovers (undoubtedly gleaned from Scott’s stints behind David Sanborn and Joe Sample). His handicap is that he’s a bit too beholden to his influences, conventions and contemporary trends to have forged something individual from them. Idiosyncrasy peeks through on a few pieces, such as “Memory’s Wavering Echo,” the West Africa-inflected “Mantra,” and the title track (which has already gained attention through Terence Blanchard’s 2005 version). In short, there’s fertile ground for development, but here it’s largely untilled.
The Source’s performances themselves are magnificent. Scott does have a personal sound on the drums, precise and adventurous, pushing the members of his Oracle to majestic heights on their own axes. In particular, guitarist Mike Moreno (one of three guitarists) shines, his liquid timbre pooling into solos that are conversational but as disciplined as poetry. Other stars include Myron Walden, on soprano sax and bass clarinet, and the ever electrifying Robert Glasper soloing on “Mantra.” Given more identity, on the next record Scott’s compositions might be stars, too.