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I suppose it's not Christian Scott's fault that when Concord Records first introduced the trumpeter back in 2006--along with pianist Taylor Eigsti and singer Erin Boheme--the label made him look like pretty actor from a teen drama. It sure left a bad taste in my mouth, though, and Scott didn't help his case by releasing two slick and slight contemporary-jazz records, one that year and another in 2007, that incorporated superficial touches of tepid hip-hop.
His most recent album, Live at Newport, seems to be an attempt to recalibrate both his image and music. He strikes a Miles Davis kind of pose on the cover (check the retro shades) and showcases a much leaner and hard-hitting sound, with rock-tinged electric guitar from Matt Stevens and introspective, post-Radiohead piano from Aaron Parks.
It's much more listenable than Scott's previous work, and nobody can say he doesn't have chops, but there still isn't a whole lot going on. He seems to be aiming to occupy the same musical territory as someone like guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, but there's never any sense that he can really dig into the material; everything kind of floats on the surface. The best tracks on the album are the ones that include tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, who doesn't mistake volume and flash with intensity and substance the way Scott seems to.
Still, I think Scott has enough in his tank that he might yet turn out something worthwhile--he's only 25--especially if he loses some of the image-consciousness. Scott leads his quartet--with Stevens, bassist Chris Funn, and drummer John Lamkin--tonight through Sunday at the Jazz Showcase.
Various artists, Anthology of Dutch Electronic Tape Music, Volume 1 1955-1956 (Basta)
Various artists, Bougouni Yaalali (Yaala Yaala)
Orquestra Popular da Bomba do Hemetério, Jorrando Cultura
Odean Pope, Plant Life (Porter)
Jerry Bergonzi, Tenor Talk (Savant)