Once your eyes interlock with Kendrick Scott on the cover of his debut album, The Source, for his World Culture Music imprint, you immediately know that this Berklee-trained drummer means business. The music unveils Scott’s unique balance of freedom and control as he proves his position as part of an elite group of young New York-based improvisers and composers. Scott penned all but one composition on this debut album, which features his band, Kendrick Scott Oracle. “One of my goals is to create a body of original music as players who influenced me have done,” says Scott.
The first piece, ‘View From Above,’ sets an appropriate tone for the rest of the album’s compositional balance. The tune was inspired by one of the greatest living interpreters of song, Dianne Reeves. On a live date with the vocalist, Scott picked up on a theme she sang that would not leave him alone. “It touched me so deeply that on the plane ride home I started writing – hence the title.”
As a drummer, Scott easily shifts temperaments to reveal an abundance of color, emotion and thought. And while the Houston, TX native is clearly steeped in the tradition of Roy Haynes, Tony Williams, and Elvin Jones, Scott displays his own distinctive style with a keen use of space, contour and dynamics. “In my drumming, I aim for continuous forward motion while paying tribute to the influences that have guided me and shaped who I am as a musician today.”
The Source draws together an elite cadre of musicians under the age of 30 who are impacting today’s jazz scene. Guitarist and occasional vocalist Lionel Loueke and pianist Robert Glasper make guest appearances on Scott’s composition ‘Mantra.’ Loueke and Glasper bring multiple flavors to the mix including West-African folk sounds, hip-hop and neo-soul. “I want to challenge myths and contest notions about what jazz should sound like. Jazz should be inclusive of many forms. These guys make that happen.”
Scott describes his spectrum of influences as “far-reaching,” as he demonstrates on a haunting version of Bjork's ‘107 Steps’ featuring Myron Walden’s bass clarinet, one of Scott’s favorite instrumental voices. “The expansive range and vibrant color of the instrument provide such a profound contrast and balance in the band’s sound. The way Myron plays the instrument has left a strong impression on my vision for its place in my music.” The piece grows into a rocking backbeat that sways with momentum. “Bjork has been a large influence on my musical approach; creating art that reflects the times.”
On the album’s title track, Scott’s cymbals shimmer with a flowing stream of elasticity; the use of his voice without words reminiscent of a Milton Nascimento escapade. The title cut, “The Source,” was originally recorded on Terence Blanchard’s 2005 record, Flow, for Blue Note Records. Flow features Scott as well as pianist and producer Herbie Hancock who plays on Scott’s tune.
“Being a part of Terence’s group for three years has been a godsend. He has given the members of the band freedom to grow and cultivate our voices. When we went in to record this ‘The Source’ and Herbie said he would play on it, one can only imagine how I felt.” If that weren’t enough, Scott’s composition was the nominated for a Grammy for Hancock’s solo on it. “I knew when I went in to record my record that ‘The Source’ would be the title track. It’s is an homage to humanity. While the world is at unrest, I believe compassion will prevail.”
The spiritual nature of some of Scott’s compositions – notably “Psalm” – indicates the importance of religion to the drummer. “My spirituality is very important to me. I feel that God imparted me with my gift and it’s my outlet for creative expression.” In addition, the influence of modern gospel and hip-hop is evident on “VCB,” where Scott’s infectious groove is all encompassing. Co-written by Scott and Glasper, a high school classmate, “VCB” was one of my Scott’s first compositions. “It was written for someone special and I believe it reflects her essence.”
Collaborations with high school classmates don’t end there. The guitarist Mike Moreno and saxophonist Walter Smith III who also attended high school with Scott, play major roles in the band and on the New York Scene today. The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) in Houston, Texas, was and continues to be a breeding ground for Houston talent – from Beyoncé to Glasper to pianist Jason Moran.
The remaining players on The Source – saxophonist Seamus Blake, guitarist Lage Lund, and fellow Blanchard band members bassist Derrick Hodge and pianist Aaron Parks, each add to the myriad palettes for orchestration. “All of these guys are on the cutting edge of musical consciousness and creativity. None of them are afraid to take chances.”
Some of Scott’s most romantic and lyrical melodies can be heard on ‘Journey,’ where singer Gretchen Parlato’s lyrics present a shadowy landscape. ‘Retrospect,’ the album’s closer shows Scott’s proclivity to capture the moment in composition. “In light of the recent tragedy along the Gulf Coast, I dedicated ‘Retrospect’ to everyone whose lives were forever changed that day.”
Kendrick ‘KADS’ Scott was born and raised in Houston, Texas. His initial inspiration and appreciation for music came from growing up in a household of musicians. The first encounters Kendrick had with the drums were in church, where his parents and older brother were involved in the music ministry. At age six his parents, Stepheny and Kenneth recognized Kendrick’s interest in the drums and purchased him a drum pad and lessons. “As a kid, I remember listening to the music at church and feeling chills in my body. I knew then, that music was my calling.”
Scott was influenced greatly by many drummers early on, including hometown up-and-comers Eric Harland and Chris Dave, as well as masters like Tony Williams, Papa Jo Jones and Max Roach. Scott was later accepted to Houston's famed High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) where his high school career culminated in many awards - the most notable being The Clifford Brown/Stan Getz Fellowship, given by the International Association for Jazz Education and The National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts.
Upon graduation from high school in 1998, Kendrick was awarded a scholarship to attend The Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. At Berklee, Scott majored in Music Education. “Going to Berklee was pivotal for my growth as a musician. I met so many great amazing musicians and friends,” he exclaims. As an undergrad, Scott gigged with Pat Metheny, Gary Burton and Kenny Garrett.
Life after Berklee has been equally successful as Kendrick has enjoyed stints with John Scofield, Joe Sample & The Crusaders, Stefon Harris, Nicholas Payton, Lizz Wright, Maria Schneider, Terence Blanchard, David Sanborn and Dianne Reeves, to name a few. “Playing with these great artists has opened my eyes to playing the moment; not the past. It has been a revelation in my music and in my daily life.”
The Source offers clear evidence that Kendrick Scott one of a select few to offer intriguing ventures beyond known musical territory. “The most rewarding thing for me is to know this is the beginning and that I have so many lessons to learn and grow from.”
Kendrick Scott Oracle’s The Source (World Culture Music) is due April 10 for release. For more information please contact Matt Merewitz at DL Media by email at email@example.com or by phone at 610-667-0501.