February 21, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Drummer Kendrick Scott, a recipient of the 2008 ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award, performs music from his debut release, The Source.
Hear the WBGO studio session on NPR Music.
Oracle. What an intriguing name for a jazz ensemble, one that conjures prophesy, divination, mythological seers and soothsayers. It's also reminiscent of Kendrick's inspiration, another drummer-led group. "Before you even heard the music, the name itself caught you. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. You're going to receive a message. It's almost like going to church."
Kendrick Scott brought his group, Oracle, to the WBGO studio to play music from his self-released debut, The Source. The quintet plays three Scott originals, including "Memory's Wavering Echo," words borrowed directly from Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet.
Every language has a poet. Consider the language of jazz, which happens to have many. New composers in jazz function like emerging wordsmiths. They inject the narrative of humanity with a fresh shot of adrenaline, and they reinvent the basic vocabulary of a cultural tradition. Kendrick Scott is a new voice in jazz. He is a drummer, a composer, and a 2008 recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award.
Kendrick Scott's music does not lay so easily in the beat, as one might expect from a drummer. "Whenever I'm composing, I'm actually singing melodies. I'll call my voicemail and sing a melody into the voicemail. Then when I get home, I sit down at the Fender Rhodes or at the piano and I'll try to harmonize it. And then I'll come up with some rhythms. Melody is first, harmony is second, and rhythm is actually third."
The results are often sprawling, cinematic compositions like the twofer, "Retrospect/View From Above." It's worth the wait, seven minutes into the medley, to hear guitarist Mike Moreno and pianist Fabian Almazan in cascading harmony. This kind of heightened interaction and listening is the result of directing live action in the moment.
Scott learned some valuable lessons when he recorded his debut release, The Source, on his own label, World Culture Music. He labored over every minute detail, until his mentor, Terence Blanchard, offered some advice about making records. "It's just a snapshot of who you are at this moment. This record doesn't define your whole life. And hopefully after this moment, you'll have more and more records to document that."
Our session with Oracle ends with "The Source," featuring an introduction from bassist Derrick Hodge, Kendrick Scott's bandmate in the Terence Blanchard Sextet.
Mysticism aside, it takes more than a drummer and composer to give Oracle its power. Scott says, "The band itself is the oracle, not just me. They send out the messages, and it's free for whoever is listening to interpret however they feel the music should be. You go to the oracle not to get the answer, but to find out what the question is. So you can get to the answer.
Check it out.
© 2008 WBGO