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Christian Scott at EFG London Jazz Festival: Experimental jazz with a modern feel

New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott has always aimed to be both modern and rooted in the jazz tradition. His concert at the Electric Ballroom proved not only that he had achieved this ambition, but that it was popular with all ages of jazz fans. Scott brings together influences from all over the world in his music, reflecting his African and Native-American heritage. He mixes older styles with trap beats, smoothly incorporating an unexpected modern edge into a traditional sound, a combination reminiscent of Miles Davis’s orchestral synth projects, or work with Robert Glasper.

Scott brought together jazz’s best in his band, including the phenomenal 26-year-old alto sax player Braxton Cook, whose playing is similar to Scott’s: modern and fresh but with a reverence for the history of sax playing. Other members of the band included the extremely talented and respected jazz instrumentalists Cory Fonville, Lawrence Fields, Kris Funn and Logan Richardson. The performance also featured a guest appearance from up-and-coming saxophonist Nubya Garcia. Each instrumentalist had their own unique style and was not shy of reaching an emotive peak in solos. Christian’s own style is evocative and powerful, using hushed tones grounded in the Miles Davis tradition and building up to emotional climaxes of rapid flurries and trills.

Emotion and power was also a feature of the bands’ interaction with the audience – Christian spent a good portion of his time speaking to the audience on topics ranging from funny, characterful stories about the band members to deep evaluations of the current state of world politics and the unique position of the new generation to create a more equal world. Clearly he sees himself as a role model for the new generation, and he should be: he has campaigned for women’s equality in jazz, and spoken outwardly and frankly about the treatment of African Americans by the police, often communicating these feelings through songs like ‘Ku-Klux Police Department’. The last song of the concert was one such piece, titled ‘The Last Chieftain’, from Scott’s most exemplary album Stretch Music. The song is about his own grandfather, an Afro-Native-American tribal chieftain who brought unity to multiple tribes. He introduced the song with a rousing speech about the desire for peace and unity and the emotion and heartfelt meaning of the song could be heard throughout with rhythms and stylings from both Afro-Native American and modern American influences.

Scott not only talks about bringing multiple backgrounds together but achieves it musically, and seeing this performed live was a joy to watch.

8/10

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Tom Hardwick

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