Monday, May 3, 2010

Contemporary Nostalgia: Christian Scott's Yesterday You Said Tomorrow

At 26, New Orleans’ musician Christian Scott seems older than his years, if not in a first-rate technique, in attitude and focus. His new release entitled Yesterday You Said Tomorrow is a very mature record. To my ears it sounds remarkably contemporary and nostalgic at the same time. In jazz, this blend is often a creative mistake or coincidence. For Christian Scott it is intentional: “I wanted to create a record that has all the qualities of the documents of that era (The 1960s) as they relate to our time.” For Scott, this era was a time of musical and socio-political commentary in the best tradition, as it were, of Charles Mingus and John Coltrane. For me, as a Canadian, that’s less important to me as a citizen. What matters is the music: how it’s written, played and recorded. For Scott the genius of the 1960s jazz recordings of this era is Rudy Van Gelder whose studios in New Jersey housed the greats of Modern Jazz from Miles Davis to Thelonious Monk, with frequent visits from Mingus and Coltrane. The album opens with a modal groove and a tune called “K.K.P.D.” It sets up the mood of the album with an improvised guitar introduction by Matthew Stevens. Scott doesn’t come in until the middle of the song thus waiting for his turn in this collective effort. Stevens takes an emotional solo during “The Last Broken Heart (Prop 8)” that is in keeping with the slow theme expressed by Scott’s muted trumpet. That track is followed up with an up-tempo, funk groove from the young rhythm section led by drummer Jamire Williams. It’s refreshing to hear such great playing unsoiled by ego or technique. The keeper is a cover of Thom Yorke’s “The Eraser” from his first solo album from 2006. This sprite instrumental captures Yorke’s yearning vocal. Recorded over 4 days last April 2009, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow is one of the best jazz albums of 2010.

-- John Corcelli is an actor, musician, writer, broadcaster and theatre director.

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