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Montreal Jazz Festival: Christian Scott at Upstairs

Eric Haynes
Contributing Writer
ebhaynes@shaw.ca

The crowd was already riled up by the time Christian Scott and his sextet stepped onto the stage of a packed Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill on June 28th. Scott, sporting colourful clothing and a thick gold chain around his neck, wasted no time launching into the second set of the evening.

The band opened with a new composition of Scott's titled "Twins", over which he played a fiery trumpet solo. Throughout the set, Scott used the microphone to amplify his soft whisper tone, but would also step back from the microphone and put his whole body into blowing through his horn. However, Scott seemed to take just as much pleasure putting his young band in the spotlight as playing himself, and took 13 minutes of the set to give each band member a long-winded introduction.

One of the most impressive soloists in the band was its youngest member, Elena Pinderhughes, a 20-year-old flautist and a student at the Manhattan School of Music. Her technical facility and her seemingly never-ending stream of melodic ideas stole the show throughout the evening. Braxton Cook, a saxophonist also in his early 20s who just released an EP Sketch, had an opportunity to stretch over John Coltrane's "Equinox", the set's second tune.

Bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Joe Dyson held down the rhythm section, and Scott often spent significant portions of songs egging them on with his back turned to the crowd. Dyson's playing occasionally sounded overly busy, but his energetic playing also propelled the soloists and the rowdy crowd to the next level.

The set concluded with an original song titled "New Heroes" by Lawrence Fields, a pianist from St. Louis, Missouri, who Scott met as a student at Berklee. Fields was one of the most impressive soloists in the band thanks to his McCoy Tyner-tinged playing and harmonic dexterity, although his light touch tended to be overpowered by the drums about halfway through his solos. Keep an eye out for Fields in the future.

It's been three years since Christian Scott's last record, Christian aTunde Adjuah. Since then he has recorded a new album, which will be released on his recently established record label Stretch Music. According to Scott, it will be the first jazz record released as an app, and will be available around late August or early September. Scott's original compositions were some of the less engaging songs of the set, but the performance given by Scott and the talented young musicians he is touring with should make the album well worth a listen, and Scott's enthusiastic following is certainly early awaiting his next release.

Eric Haynes studied jazz piano at McGill University, and is a member of Busty and the Bass, a nine-piece electrosoul/hip-hop collective.