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Posts Tagged ‘Christian Scott’

Three Great Contemporary Jazz Artists

Posted by SP on January 12, 2010

I was going to write “there are few forms of music that I love more than jazz” but screw it.  There aren’t ANY forms of music that I love more than jazz.  Unfortunately, really good, innovative, and musically sound jazz is hard to find.  Most releases stateside are either anemic descendants of 70’s fusion (think Weather Channel music) or staid attempts at traditionalism by otherwise really competent players who might swing like hell live, but won’t sell records on a major label if they dare push the envelope to jazz snobs in North America.

That’s why I’m dedicating this entry to three American jazz artists that I think are breaking that mold and doing really creative, electrifying work that deserves to be heard: Christian Scott, Jason Moran, and Sean Jones.

First New Orleans native Christian Scott.

I got introduced to his music through the recommendation of a friend that I check out 2007’s Anthem, Scott’s melancholic, thoughtful, and altogether moving reflection on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.  I was immediately arrested by Scott’s whispery tone, which is truly unique (allegedly the product of his own exploration and guidance from legendary mentor Clark Terry).  Anthem is dark and moody, but it fits its subject matter perfectly and stands out, at least to me, as an expressive benchmark.  Below is a video of Scott performing live at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2008.

Jason Moran has been a favorite of mine for years.  His 2003 record The Bandwagon: Live at the Village Vanguard got my attention with his versatility, feel, and remarkable sense of song.  It was also just cool as hell.  Who can argue with a jazz cover of Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa? I mean, come on.  His later work, however, far outshines anything on that record.  His latest release Artist in Residence is absolutely arresting in its beauty and structure.  Far from being just an exceptional piano player, Moran has developed the compositional vocabulary to show just how much he understands this music without losing sight of his own message and sensibility.  It is a shame he isn’t better known outside jazz.  The song in this video, from Artist in Residence, is called “He Puts on His Coat and Leaves”.  The video doesn’t do it justice.  If you can, listen to the original.  It’s an entire novel in less than five minutes.

“He Puts on His Coat and Leaves” (live)

Finally there’s Sean Jones, another trumpeter, but from Ohio.  Sean Jones’ reputation used to be strongest in the Detroit-Pittsburgh corridor.  (Jones teaches Jazz at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh) but a turn with the much valorized Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra the last five years has changed that, and Jones is finally coming into some very well-deserved publicity.  Jones’s playing is nothing short of beautiful.  He plays with a clarity and phrasing that are slightly reminiscent of Terence Blanchard (at least to me) but where Blanchard’s playing is austere, Jones radiates warmth and light.  He’s the perfect yang to Scott’s yin.  Plus, as the videos below attest, the guy can swing like there’s no tomorrow.  Jones’ latest release, 2009’s The Search Within, is nothing short of a revelation.  As a composer, Jones already has a fresh and unmistakable signature sound that I think will one day put him in the same league with other great trumpeter/composers like Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd.   The Search Within will knock you out.

Sean Jones, Kenny Blake, Howie Alexander, live in Pittsburgh doing a blazing rendition of Herbie Hancock’s classic “Watermelon Man” parts I & II

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