JazzReview: What brought you to Berklee [School of Music in Boston]?
Christian Scott: The main reason I attended Berklee was because I wanted to go to a school that was as diverse as the music. But that wasn’t my first reason. I had wanted to go to Berklee ever since I was a little kid, probably before I knew what it was, because my uncle went there.
JazzReview: Your uncle is saxophonist Donald Harrison.
Christian Scott: Yup.
JazzReview: He’s so cute!
Christian Scott: Everyone says that about him! Oh, god!
JazzReview: Who were some of your classmates at Berklee that you see gigging now?
Christian Scott: The guy who was doing as much stuff as I was who became my best friend, bassist Luques Curtis [the bassist on Rewind That]. We actually met in Cuba when we were just fifteen. The next time that we met was at Berklee. I was walking down a hallway, he saw me, came up behind me and jump-kicked me in the back! We ended up playing in my uncle’s band and my group. The other person who also became my best friend is bassist Esperanza Spalding. Funny how that worked out two bass players! Now she’s my girlfriend!
JazzReview: You speak well of the musicians on this release. Are they the same group touring with you now?
Christian Scott: Yeah, but I’m finding out how hard it is to take your band places. These guys [promoters] want somebody with a big name on bass, on drums, on guitar. I want my guys to play, to have work.
JazzReview: Once you left Berklee, what was the most surprising reality that you had to face as a musician?
Christian Scott: Man, how hard it is to survive out here! There’s just not enough work out there for everybody. I’m looking at musicians who came out at the same time I did out of Berklee and Juilliard and they’re laying down their music to find a paying gig. Y’know how expensive rent is in New York and Boston? I don’t know how some of them are doing it. Some of them are starving! I’m lucky because I have a record with a major label and I’m busy. I’m just sorry that some of them have to lay down their music [to make ends meet.]
JazzReview: What advice did Donald give you on the bandstand about running a band, musicianship, and dealing with promoters?
Christian Scott: Well, he didn’t tell me much about promoters. He told me to take my time. He told me you don’t have to scream at the audience. I’ve seen guys do that. Then they don’t have anything left for later on. The music ain’t goin’ anywhere. Donald told me this: "Don’t overplay. [When you do that]You turn off a part of your being". You cannot constantly scream at people.
JazzReview: Did you create Rewind That for any particular listener? Were you thinking of listeners your age, your uncle’s age ?
Christian Scott: It wasn’t seriously discussed, thought we did, on a subtle level. Ideally, it’s for anyone who likes it, anyone who would listen to this [type of music.] I was thinking about who would be listening to this in thirty years. It was a scary thing to process that when I’m thirty, there may not be an audience for this. If people don’t play music that is more accessible, no one’s gonna want to hear it.
JazzReview: Compare and contrast your self-titled album and Rewind That?
Christian Scott: Rewind That is the evolution of the music from the first album. My skills as a player and as a composer have grown. The first album was my baby, on my own label. For me, when I did the first album, that’s where I was as a musician and as a person. [With Rewind That] the music just sort of came out of me.
JazzReview: Did you produce your self-titled album as you did Rewind That?
Christian Scott: The first album was all me. Financially, production side, me. My dad helped me a bit. I felt like for the first time in my life I did something on m’own, on my own two feet and I’m proud of it.
JazzReview: The look of the website and liner notes is your brother Kiel’s work. To me it expresses the fiery coolness of the music. Am I on target with that response?
Christian Scott: Yeah, that’s a good way to describe it. Kiel and I look exactly alike and act alike, too. He’s like ten times more talented with his art than I am with my trumpet. I love what he did with the graphics of the liner notes. He’s also a filmmaker. Graduated from Cooper Union, NY.
JazzReview: This is an incredibly personal album. Each tune relates to you and your experiences. I find that a mature concept for a debut album. Also, nine of the eleven compositions are your own. Why did you take this direction?
Christian Scott: First, your comment is kind. I write a lot. Before the first [self-titled] album, I was writing 5-6 songs a day and gettin’ a lot out. I didn’t want to put out another straight ahead album. It’s been done before. We put "So What" on the album because I love that tune. It was the first album [Kind of Blue], the first one where you could hear the individuality of the musicians.
JazzReview: Who dresses you? Your clothes are fabulous! You have a fine sense of fashion.
Christian Scott: I dress myself! I dress very differently, I know. It all started with me trying to look like Donald! When I was younger, he’d come over to the house and he would look so dapper. The women loved it! When I was older and started showing up on the bandstand dressed up, he’d just look at me and shake his head. And then people would remind him that he used to dress like that.
JazzReview: Love the ascot!
Christian Scott: Thank you. I’ve been told that I should start my own clothing line. When I was younger, he [Donald] was there for me a lot. He took us fishing and showed us how to play basketball. Y’know, people call Donald and me Obi-won and Anakin Skywalker? [Characters from the Star Wars saga.]
On Miles .
JazzReview: I really dig your quote on Miles: "What he doesn’t play is just as great as what he does play." Did your peers and professors at Berklee dig that concept about Miles or did you stand alone on that?
Christian Scott: I was on my own. No one else was thinking about Miles the way I was except [Ken] Cervenka [Brass Department at Berklee]. I hadn’t heard anyone intellectualize Miles like Cervenka. In my opinion, he [Miles] was the most tactful player. And you cannot forget his sound! His sound is very clear, resonant and bright and that brightness is dark in comparison in the music. It reminds me of my mother’s voice. If you watched him carefully, you could see him editing himself on stage! It was wild to see him editing his music like that.
JazzReview: What do you think about Miles being inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame?
Christian Scott: I think it’s killin’ and I hope I‘m the next trumpeter into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame! He’s had a bigger impact on Rock n’ Roll than he’s having on jazz now! Miles didn’t discriminate music. I’ve heard more musicians talk about Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way than any of Miles’ other stuff. Everyone is playing post-bop. No one’s playin’ "Delores" [from Miles Smiles]. Those tunes are hard.
Christian’s mother suffers from a rare disease that causes her chronic pain. The composition "Suicide" "is a vehicle to raise awareness of it."
JazzReview: As I listened to "Suicide", I imagined the inner struggle your mother must wage against her physical and spiritual self. Does she talk to you about this?
Christian Scott: All the time. When I was 5, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At first she was misdiagnosed! She went through three years of chemo. Whenever she heard a girl [who had been diagnosed with cancer] say "Why me?" in a couple of months, they’d be gone. She decided to kick it. And then when she was diagnosed with this [latest disease], I cried out in anger. I had never cried so much in all of my life. I wanted this to happen to me. She had to go through breast cancer with two young black boys in New Orleans and now this. She’s not goin’ down with anything without a fight.
She helped me with my trumpet [playing]. Donald gets the credit, but my mother taught me everything I know. She was there clapping her hands as I played; helped me form my embouchure.
She played clarinet and bassoon in high school. She was a great leader. I had to fight for everything as a black kid in New Orleans. Those neighborhoods were tough. But mom shielded us from so much, but also raised us to fight and stand up for ourselves. She sacrificed everything for us. Drive and work ethics are formed when you’re a child. I could not have asked for a better a childhood. I love her.