The Miles Davis of This Generation

By Leslie Rae Terhorst

Photography By Bo Cross

From growing up in the 9th ward of New Orleans, to touring at a young age with his uncle, to graduating from Berklee College of Music N.Y. it’s perfectly clear to see how Grammy-nominated trumpeter Christian Scott has captured all his experiences, life lessons, amazing insight, and transforms his passions into musical masterpieces of art.  With the huge success of his first two critically acclaimed albums ‘Rewind That’ and ‘Anthem’ they have brought him recognition by not only jazz lovers, but R&B, Hip Hop artists, from Mos Def to Prince.   Scott has also been sought after by the film industry, making his movie debut in a Gorge Clooney film titled ‘Leatherheads’ where he appeared and performed in the picture, to his resent endeavor in the new Ann Hathaway film ‘Rachel Getting Married’.  I think we’ve only just seen the beginning of what is will prove to exceed through generations.

As I walked through the glass doors of Anthology amazed at the sheer beauty of this place.  From the contemporary white leather bar stools and chairs, to the vast array of wines incased in floor to ceiling glass panels that covers the whole back wall of the U-shaped bar, then opens up to a 3 tiered concert venue unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, I was impressed, kudos to the designer.  Then from down the impeccably styled cement staircase come Christian Scott, and as I commented on how amazing this place is he states, “I’ve been all over the world and Anthology is by far the best place I’ve ever performed” and he meant it.  So we decided to head up to the second level over looking the entire ground level floor and stage, turned on the video camera and sat down to find out what dwells deep inside this talented soul.

RIS: What influenced you, what got you started playing the Trumpet?


C.Scott:  I actually started playing the trumpet because of really Miles Davis.    When I was a kid my parents would put on Dizzy Gillespie records and Charlie Parker, then one day they put on Miles Davis and I realized I wanted to play something similar to that.  My uncle is a very famous jazz musician; his name is Donald Harrison, Jr.  He actually played with Miles in the early 80’s so I’ve had a little help trying to refine my efforts.


RIS:  You’ve been touring with your uncle for quite some time now, what has he brought to you, what has he taught you?


C.Scott:   I started touring with my uncle when I was 13; so probably from 13 to about 20 I was working with him.  It’s strange, I think the biggest lesson I learned from him is that you need to talk to people, and listen to people, and you’ll find out that across cultures and borders that human beings have the same anxieties, they feel the same things, and the same things make them happy.  In order to be an effective communicator, and to be able to more or less effectively emote with your instrument, and come across and be able to convey something heartfelt, you have to be open to understanding other people’s dilemmas and their situations, so they can understand you.


RIS:  You strive to be a little bit different; you’re not really the bebop type.


C.Scott:  Yes and no, well tonight I’ll be playing bebop, I think one of the things is it all depends on who I’m playing with.  When I play with my group, my music is more like if you mixed Radio Head with John Coltrane, so it’s kind of a different texture from most jazz.  Every now and then I do play bebop, and they other styles.  I grew up in New Orleans so I learned all of the stuff on the turn of the century all the way up to what is happening now.  I think it’s important you have to know the gamut if you will, if you want to be able to survive. 


RIS:  Going up in New Orleans, how much influence in your music has that brought to you?


C.Scott:   I think it’s more than my music, because I was immersed in the musical culture of the city for so long, I think that it’s just something that was ingrained in me as a musician that I don’t really think of it at all.  I think it’s more of the social political issues that effect that city sort of as a micro cosmic reality relates to America, and the rest of the world, I think those things are more prevalent in the music, than the music, if that makes sense.


RIS:  A lot of the songs that you write come from your own real life experiences, it’s almost like it’s therapeutic for you, does it get you through a lot of situations?


C.Scott:  It does, the new CD/DVD ‘Live From Newport’ has a song that was written for one of my best friend that I grew up with in New Orleans, he was a drummer.  He was murdered, shot down and killed with his brand new wife, he had just gotten married a week before.  The people in the neighborhood, some say, “it was a couple cops,” some say, “it was kids or hoods in the neighborhood,” no one knows, I just know that my friend is gone.  I wrote a song for him, called ‘Died In Love’.  I ended up finding out my friend died, his name was Denero, about 6 or 7 months after he’d passed away, because of my schedule people don’t call me, so I get news really late.  It hurt me a lot, I actually wrote the song when I was on the road in London.  I had to get my band away from me for a day or two; I just went and played piano.  Every time I would play this cord percussion I would cry, I couldn’t stop, so when we play the song, every now and then, we don’t play it often, all the emotions come up, because it makes you angry.   One of the cool things about playing this type of music you can be sincere as possible with the listener, and you’re rewarded for it, as opposed to being punished.  Like with more popular forms of music, a Brittany Spears or Bionce saying something about what they are really might think about, maybe being exploited by the industry, people are not going to react to that, where as, I can say what the hell I want to say.


RIS:  Tell me about the rest of the guys in the band?


C.Scott:  Where going to start with my guitarist Matt Stevens, he’s the musical director; he’s been in the band for about 7 years.  The first album we did together was ‘Rewind That’ which was nominated for a Grammy.  He’s just my best friend in the world, he’s a sweet guy, he’s Canadian, he has so much conviction about what it is that he hears, that I love having him around.  The next guy, I would have to say, is my drummer Jamire Williams, this guy has a gift.  He can manipulate time in a way that I’ve never heard a drummer do before.  It’s created some very interesting things with the pallets of the music.  We’ve been working on a new record that will probably come out in 2010, and lots of the conceptual music that we’ve been doing has had lots of journalistic incentive, they have never heard anything like it since Train.  So this guy is a great launching pad for that music, because he can manipulate time signatures and different rhythmic concepts, but there’s sort of always a groove hap so you don’t loose the audience that might not necessarily be into what you might call the highbrow stuff.  For instance most music is in 4/4 time signatures, like Hip Hop and R&B it’s almost all in the same time sig. 4/4.  But, like my band we play in 9/7/6/5/3/11/13 all these different things, there not always different keys, there is different Moe’s, different time signatures, and if you want to experience different things, and different ways of hearing those things, then go pick up some jazz records, you’ll find that there is music you hear everyday that comes from jazz, which is crazy.  I have a new working band with Matt and Jamire, there is our bass player named Kristopher Funn, he has a way of reeling everyone in, he’s our foundation.  Last but no least, is our pianist Milton Fletcher he’s from Seaside California.  He actually reminds me a lot of McCoy Tyner, which kind of ties him to that whole John Coltrane type of thing; he has that similar touch and texture to his playing.

What an impressive guy. At the tender age of 25, it has only just begun.  He wanted me to make sure that I project the importance of buying his new CD/DVD combo ‘Live At Newport’, he stated “Don’t get it from ITunes, you can’t get the DVD with ITunes.”  So be sure to pick up a copy, it is truly amazing.