Posted: December 17th, 2010 | Author: Kevin Lee | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: Christian Scott, Jazz, Matt Stevens | 1 Comment »
‘Yesterday You Said Tomorrow’ came out earlier this year to much anticipation and fanfare around the world. Christian Scott, the Grammy-nominated boy wonder who took the jazz community by storm with his 2006 album ‘Rewind That’, this year came out with his 4th album in five years.
Scott, since the last time I wrote about him, has been hard at work creating new music and gaining priceless experience touring. Scott’s last album, a live recording of his concert at the 2008 Newport Jazz Festival, was solid and provides a more raw experience of his work and sound. But I feel this year’s ‘Yesterday You Said Tomorrow’ is the rightful continuation of Christian Scott’s journey last visited in 2007’s Anthem.
Seven of the ten tracks on this album have titles that try to elicit sharp commentaries about hotly debated issues in American politics and society. Songs like “The Roe Effect”, “American’t”, “Jencide”, and “Angola, LA & The 13th Amendment” are examples of this. While the album ‘Anthem’ was fiercely angry, crying out in anguish and pain, ‘Yesterday You Said Tomorrow’ has internalized this grief much more. You can clearly feel that the same feelings of frustration are present in this new album, but they are now coming from a much deeper place, and have shifted Scott’s music to be more muted, more reserved, more pensive. But I feel this album has even more energy than ‘Anthem’ if that is all possible. I think what I am hearing is evermore maturity coming from Christian’s horn.
The music, as it has since Scott’s first album, signifies another step forward in the sound of contemporary Jazz. He takes every opportunity to display his “Whisper Technique”, a distinct breathy, airy, hazy effect on his sound. Scott is said to have perfected this technique over the past couple of years, and found his breakthrough when trying to mimic the sound of his horn to the sound of his mother’s voice. The “Whisper Technique” is also accentuated by Scott’s custom-designed, custom-made trumpet, nicknamed “Katrina”. To elevate this whispering sound, Scott’s music is dark, deep, and moody, the perfect atmosphere to envelope an eerie, whispering lyric.
Christian Scott’s music is rich in deep, tonal hues. It is, admittedly, very impressionistic of Miles Davis’ earlier era, though with very contemporary arches. One of these contemporary pillars is Matt Stevens’ guitar work. Having been with Scott since the beginning, these two have matured their sound together, and have almost become two halves of a whole. Pay attention to Matt on each of the tracks he plays on.
My favourite songs on this album are: American’t, Isadora, and most of all, The Eraser. There is an edginess to these songs that is so deliciously subtle. The songs move forward at a hypnotic pace, and I often find myself swaying back and forth or nodding relentlessly to the onslaught of their tight tempo. These songs make my forehead frown in concentration. I am exhilarated.
Posted: June 29th, 2008 | Author: Kevin Lee | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: contemporary jazz, Jazz guitar, Julian Lage, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Matt Stevens, Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, Wynton Marsalis | No Comments »
At the end of May I had the chance to fulfill one of my goals. That goal was to see Mike Stern live in concert. I had missed him once when he played in Montreal, then missed him again in Toronto and then in New York. I wasn’t about to miss him a fourth time. So when I heard back in January that he would be coming through Beijing, I marked it on my calendar and looked forward to it each passing day.
Mike Stern’s newest album, “Who Let the Cats Out?” was one that got me super excited when it first came out, as it kept the heart of the rock-fusion sound alive, but with this newest album also acknowledging the other advancements in Jazz in recent years. Funk, NuSoul, Neo-Traditional Jazz, and some Rhythm & Blues are all infused in Mike Stern’s music. “Who Let the Cats Out?” isn’t really all that new, being released in late 2006. But Mike Stern’s world tour, much akin to his career, has mastered the meaning of longevity, consistency and authenticity. His performance in Beijing was much the same.
Mike & Co. came out on stage unceremoniously, walking straight for their choice of instruments. He beckons to his mates to begin the first song, and away they go, inviting the audience to join them on their journey. Mike immediately begins to rock back and forth, consecutively bending each knee like an electric toy trying to run on the spot but with its feet nailed down to the floor. This sight coincides with the swiftest movements ever witnessed coming from human fingers. On his face is the child-like smile one can only have when experiencing innocent joy. Mike’s band moves at a lighting pace, led by the speed of their leader’s notes, but all with a comfortability and a little hop in their musical step while they revisit some complex harmonics. They’ve done this before, and it suits them just fine.
To me, Mike Stern is the standard bearer for the conclusion Miles Davis came to from his Rock-Fusion experiment. Mike Stern, along with his contemporaries like Jim Hall and John McLaughlin have been faithfully keeping with jazz-rock-fusion tradition, but more importantly steering the tradition as it steams forward in the twenty-first century.
The contemporary Jazz world has long been fragmented, producing numerous neo-traditionalists led by geniuses like trumpeter & composer Wynton Marsalis. In recent years what has been popularized as the ‘new’ sound of contemporary jazz is the electric guitar. Yet even in this declaration, it is the rounded, melodious sounds defined by Pat Metheny that are really what people think of when they talk about today’s jazz guitar. Mike Stern’s continued homage to Miles Davis’ fusion vision is almost the antithesis of Pat Metheny’s school of sound. But in the wonderful world of Jazz, where all sounds are positive, intellectual pillars of influence, we can see how both Pat Metheny and Mike Stern have jointly spurned on the young guitar leaders of jazz’s future; Matt Stevens, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and Julian Lage all have large elements of their music directly attributed to these two very distinct titans of contemporary jazz.
As a side note, isn’t it amazing how both Pat Metheny and Mike Stern (indeed most of the giants of contemp jazz) had their start from Miles Davis? This tells you how supremely important Miles Davis was and is to Jazz heritage.
After meeting Mike Stern in person, and doing a brief interview for our publication, I can safely he is one of the most quirkiest, happy-go-lucky musicians I have ever met. He has taken the inner-child to a totally new level and kept the joy of performing and the joy of jazz rooted in an unbreakable foundation.
Posted: February 5th, 2008 | Author: Kevin Lee | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: Jazz, Kev's Music Review, Matt Stevens | No Comments »
I want to introduce a rapidly rising stars of the Jazz world: Matt Stevens. This guitar-playing impresario is a fresh voice in the jazz guitar’s evolution. With strong influences in both tone and repetoire from Pat Metheny, Matt Stevens infuses his own string of blues and funk into the mix. After watching him live at the Rex in Toronto this past weekend, I have to say he is one of the finest guitarists of the new generation. Not only is he a great solo musician, but his is a fantastic band leader as well. His quintet moves together as one, laying thick grooves with heavy percussive bass-lines in support of Matt’s forward-thinking riffs. Check him out if you’re into some serious progressive jazz guitar!
With an ear to the ground,