March 1997

Stephen Scott
The Beautiful Thing
Verve

The evidence of Scott's wondrous piano touch and evolving artistry continues; and the man's not even 30 yet! The development of his career makes him seem like quite possibly the Kenny Barron of his generation. It took the latter a number of years in the trenches before he became recognized as a leader for his exquisite skills, while others around him with seemingly lesser gifts, but with perhaps stronger marketplace hooks were more celebrated.

The Beautiful Thing represents another luscious chapter in Scott's manifest development. The bass and drums of Dwayne Burno, Dion Parsons or Victor Lewis are at the core of Scott's working ensemble here, with guest satellite saxophonists Branford Marsalis, Kenny Garrett, Ron Blake and Jesse Davis taking turns, plus guitarist Russell Malone and percussionist Steve Kroon. The opening original, "Forevermore," is a direct reflection on Scott's days with Betty Carter, and she would have been great rendering a lyric here. In addition to his original muse, Scott arranges several jazz classics and standards, such as Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa," which is accelerated and delivered by the jousting Garrett and Marsalis. There's always a freshness and spice about the way Stephen Scott puts together an album project that suggests he has a future not only in advanced jazz pianistics, but perhaps also as an in-demand arranger and producer. Each track on this rewarding date has its own distinct life apart from the others, but taken as a whole there is an obvious programmatic feel.

Originally published in March 1997
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