As a long-time jazz fan, it gets my attention whenever I see Live At Newport in the title of an album, because it evokes memories of Ellington, Brubeck, and other legendary jazz performers who have appeared at the festival through the years. Of course, it also creates expectations — and that can sometimes be the tricky part.
But I’m happy to report that Grammy-nominated trumpeter Christian Scott’s new release on the Concord Jazz label is a very enjoyable two disc (CD/DVD) album. The DVD not only contains many of the extra features you’d imagine, but also a full video of Scott’s appearance at the 2008 festival, complete with Dolby sound. It marks an event that was especially meaningful to Scott because his inspiration, Miles Davis, appeared at the festival exactly fifty years ago, issuing his own landmark album.
Scott’s style differs from that of Davis in his heyday but he seems to be a kindred spirit, and one thing is certain — the young New Orleans native does have a jazz pedigree. He’s the nephew of jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison and he also grew up in a city that has a long tradition in jazz. And even though he’s still relatively young, this album and his previous releases – along with exciting performances such as that at Newport – have helped establish him as one of today’s rising jazz stars.
In preparation for his appearance, Scott enlisted the aid of some talented musicians, including pianist Aaron Parks, drummer Jamire Williams, bassist Joe Sanders, and guitarist Matt Stevens. On most of the pieces he also was supported by tenor saxman Walter Smith III. It’s pretty much the same group that he used on his last album, 2007’s Anthem.
The new collection also borrows a little from that album and its predecessor, 2006’s Rewind That, by reprising a few of the pieces for the live audience at Newport. Both of the title songs from the two earlier albums, along with “Litany Against Fear,” are included here. The latter is especially nice, setting a smooth and dreamy mood that allows Scott to soar. Most of the eight tracks are similarly paced, with Scott’s slow and moody horn play occasionally punctuated by some explosive percussion. A good example is a song Scott wrote to commemorate the death of a friend, “Died In Love.” (Complimentary download via artist’s website.)
My favorite here was something a little livelier, “James Crow Jr., Esq.” The piece’s post-bop bounce and some nice guitar licks from Stevens help frame Scott’s trumpet, which seems to pick up a little more retro sound too. Good stuff, as is the entire album — recommended.