Christian Scott Breaks (Down) Jazz

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Kind of Red

Horn player Christian Scott isn't one to bow to the status quo. His music is kinetic, alive and ever-changing, dancing its way out of his instrument and into the room. His haircut is an inspired take on the fade, tight and patterned on the sides with spiraling locks on top. And his trumpet isn't a trumpet at all.

"If I'm being clear, I hate the trumpet," Scott said over the phone. "I've always thought the trumpet has a terrible sound. I thought the trumpet was too brash, too dark and too piercing."

Scott employs four prototypes on his new record Stretch Music, horns that bend at odd and beautiful angles. A Frankenstein of brass, Scott commissioned these hybrids of the trumpet, flugelhorn and coronet to achieve a more perfect tone.

"The reason I created the hybrid is, it kind of gives me a means to create multiple sounds within the confines of one instrument," said Scott. "I refuse to believe the idea or notion that the trumpet was perfect 100 years ago. I think that's pretty stupid." 

The sound reporting from Scott's horn maintains that hybrid spirit, marching into unexplored territory with great confidence. His eighth studio effort, Stretch Music, plops jazz, New Orleans street rhythms, hip-hop and indie rock into a blender and chops these forms into something wild and new.

Between songs, Scott opts for innovation over consistency, demanding his musicians to stretch their understanding of what jazz can be. As a leader, Scott asks the most from his rhythm section. From the chaotic funk of "West of the West" to the Big Easy parading of "TWIN," Stretch Music's rhythmic landscape is a diverse and updated map of the evolving beats of contemporary music.

Scott opens the album with "Sunrise in Beijing," a morning beat for the over-caffeinated. Drummers Corey Fonville and Joe Dyson Jr. flex over the track in a nimble and muscular performance, reminiscent of a halfback's feet bobbing through defenders.

Of all the rhythms in Scott's music, it's rare to find swing, the so-called echt pulse of jazz. Scott, feeling "swinged out," doesn't share prior generations' belief that the swing rhythm is a defining feature of the music.

"When you're not on a jazz bandstand and everything else that you hear doesn't [swing], but it still touches you, or captivates you, or you can relate to it, you start to create things that don't necessarily have the older thing in it," said Scott. "Because how relevant is it to you, other than the fact that you're told you're supposed to play it as a jazz musician?"

Born in New Orleans in 1983, Scott came up playing the horn with his uncle, the magnificent alto saxophonist Donald Harrison. Since his debut as a leader in 2002, Scott has embraced the role of innovator: he sees something he likes and wants to make it better. Even in his language — wanting to "customize your experience" of listening — Scott sounds like a young magnate pitching his work.

His newest disruption is in the drum kit itself, moving away from the traditional setup and toward an instrument that is both modern and ancient. Working with Fonville and Dyson Jr., Scott developed a kit that combines the trap sounds of the Roland 808 and 909 drum machines with the bass drum subbed out for a djembe —the goatskin goblet drum of West Africa.

"The natural sub on the djembe can completely match the 808 or 909 bass drum sounds," said Scott. "'Cause it's the first sub. That was a lot of fun for us, creating a space that had the full history of the drums."

His second development, like so many out there, is an app. Built with developer Tutti Player, Scott's Stretch Music app allows a listener to control the record in real time, using easy volume faders to isolate, turn up or cut out an instrument in the mix. For entertaining producer fantasies, or sitting down to improvise in an all-star setting, the app is an audiophile's delight.

"How cool would it have been if in 1958, 1959, when Miles' band was recording 'Round About Midnight or Kind of Blue, if you could take the trumpet out and play the record as Miles Davis," Scott asks in a promo video. "What would music sound like today if you actually had the resources to do that?"

Christian Scott with Roger Blevins Jr.

$25-$60, 7pm Sun, Dec. 13, Tobin Center for Performing Arts, 100 Auditorium Circle, (210) 223-8624,

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