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April 2009

Christian Scott
Live at Newport
Concord Records

From one perspective, it might seem a bit premature for young trumpeter Christian Scott to be releasing a live album, with only two major label studio albums out since his emergence on the scene in 2006. On the plus side, Live at Newport, with material drawn from his earlier albums mixed in with new tunes, offers up a glimpse at Scott’s intriguing and evolving band in the more open and in-the-moment setting of a live show, and captured at a historic festival, no less.

The New Orleans native, whose album Anthem paid melancholy and angry tribute to Katrina’s ravages—both physical and civic-psychic—seems to be still finding his path between musical poles, and is feeling the old push-pull of commercial and artistic instincts. With its probing spirit and the implied social message in a tune like the extended “James Crow Jr., Esq.,” the general seriousness of Live at Newport makes for an extension of the vibe of Anthem. It may not win much love in the commercial jazz zone. And that’s just one of its virtues.

Scott is working in an intriguing netherworld of his devising, with an electro-acoustic sensibility geared around the presence of the nimble guitarist Matt Stevens, whose John Scofield-meets-Kurt Rosenwinkel venturing pushes the ensemble in a particular textural direction, off to the side of the Art Blakey band paradigm. Pianist Aaron Parks dispenses his tasteful sophistication and subtlety, and tenor saxist Walter Smith III puts in stellar work.

As a trumpeter, Scott demonstrates an appreciation for musical finery. Though a strong player, he heeds a romantic impulse and resists excessive technical overkill. He savors long, nuanced tones, loops fragmented phrases and generally seeks to hone a voice to call his own in the crowded ranks of good trumpeters on the scene. So far, so good, whatever his place in the genre game.

Originally published in April 2009
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