Christian Scott Ushers In New Era Of Jazz Trumpeter Christian Scott is a relatively new voice in jazz music, but he is already challenging the genre's conventional thinking. Scott has picked a fight with some famous jazz purists, and he's holding his ground. Tony Cox speaks with Scott about jazz music's past, present, and future.
NPR logo

Christian Scott Ushers In New Era Of Jazz

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Christian Scott Ushers In New Era Of Jazz

Christian Scott Ushers In New Era Of Jazz

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

TONY COX, host:

Trumpeter Christian Scott is a relatively new voice in jazz who has stepped up to challenge conventional thinking on the subject. He's picked a fight with some famous jazz purists, and for now at least he's holding his ground because well, as they say, he can blow. Here's my conversation with the 29-year-old about jazz music past, present, and future.

(Soundbite of music)

COX: To be quite candid with you it seems that you talk a little trash.

Mr. CHRISTIAN SCOTT (Jazz Musician): Oh, yeah. I talk trash...

COX: You know, where your music is concerned, particularly as it relates to your brand of jazz versus other older brands of jazz. You know where I'm going with this?

Mr. SCOTT: Yeah, of course, of course. I don't think the older the older ones are - that there's anything wrong with them. I love them to death, but I just, you know, my biggest problem is with people that are living now, you know, making the same brand of jazz that they made 60 years ago, when 60 years ago they did it better. It doesn't make sense, you know.

COX: So, what does make sense?

Mr. SCOTT: Well, I think what makes sense is sincerity, you know. I know that there's some - if someone's born in 1983 and they grew up with the type of music influences that I grew up with and listen to the type of things that I listen to. And some stuff you can't get away from, you know, like the radio now, you can't - you know, I mean it's just true. If you grew up with those influences to be playing Bix Beiderbecke solos is a bit perverse to me. You know what I'm saying? Because it's like how do you relate to that? Because those guys when they were playing that music at that time, you talk about guys like Miles Davis and stuff. And they'll tell you, well, I didn't play a certain way because I didn't think it will - went with what I was wearing or the people I was hanging out with.

I'm just saying it might seem a little, you know, narcissistic from their point of view, but the thing about it is, like, they were being sincere about what it is and why they were making music a certain way. So, the thing is to be calling on to these things from these very, very I mean almost archaic forms of the music. If you're approaching it in a way where it is not to inform your musical decision making and you're saying well, this is what it is and everything that comes after that is garbage. Then I think then there has to be someone that's on the other side of the fence saying no what we're doing is not garbage, and yeah we'll fight you and we'll win, that's it.

(Soundbite of music)

COX: Now, do you feel in any way held hostage by this?

Mr. SCOTT: No, nah. I like it man. I mean the thing about it is it's like - it's not - I don't even really think about it unless, you know, unless someone ask me about it, you know. Because the thing about it is part of the reason people get angry about it, other musicians, is because they know they can't - they can't devalidate what it is that I do because - because I know the entire history of the music. You know they might be a trumpeter from let's say Chicago and Detroit that might have started with Dizzy Gillespie. He can't actually approach me with that and feel like he's actually going to win on any level because I'm starting with Buddy Bolden. And I know it the whole way through. You see what I'm saying? And so I...

COX: I follow you. I follow you.

Mr. SCOTT: It's one of those things where it's not - you're not denigrating those guys' contributions, you're saying well I've made informed decisions my entire career and life, and made a choice to do this music because I realized that it's going to help the next generation of musicians instead of inhibit them.

(Soundbite of music)

COX: Let's talk about some of the specifics.

Mr. SCOTT: Sure.

COX: One of the things that I read with regard to you in particularly...

Mr. SCOTT: I like this already.

COX: Which is...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCOTT: Let's go come on. Let's go.

COX: And this isn't about you and Wynton so much as it's about the swing the - let's talk about the concept of swing and whether or not there's a place for that.

Mr. SCOTT: We swing. We do it, that's the thing about it that people - people are shocked and confused.

COX: I am confuse then.

Mr. SCOTT: So here's the thing. It's like I said, you're making choices to do something. Like I said, I'm not saying that those guys' contributions are not great, and I'm not saying that's playing that music is a silly or stupid thing to do or anything like that. What I'm saying is when you make a choice to place a value on that and say, well, this is valuable, but everything that everyone is doing from this point on is not valuable, then there has to be someone that says no you're wrong, this is valuable. Now if saying that what's happening during these time is valuable is being construed as saying that the stuff from the past is not valuable, then it's being misinterpreted.

Here's the thing, I think - I feel like for the last 20 or 25 years, jazz archetypal musicians and composers have more or less accepted the type of insincerity that's requisite for their musical survival. So with individuality being no longer being paramount, you know what I'm saying? It's like you have all these drones that come out and everybody sounds the same.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SCOTT: You have these schools that say well, you listen to Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane, but they're missing all this other stuff. The thing about it is you're dealing with a system that's designed with a cap on it. The guys that are at the top of the food chain have said, well, this is how you teach jazz because this America's classical music and this is how you teach it. You can't go about teaching this the same way that you teach other things. This is not math, this is human expression.

So these guys at the top of the food chains tell all the jazz programs across the country, you tell them to listen to Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane. You tell them to listen to Charlie Christian. And the thing about it is, like, if you have all these kids - thousands and thousands and thousands of kids listen to the same things, when they get to be grown men and they're really playing, they - all of their musical information is the same, so the decisions that they're going to make are going to be similar.

COX: Where did this come from? Because you come out of New Orleans and there's certainly a tradition of music based there. You're classically trained. At some point, you said, I'm turning left.

Mr. SCOTT: No, you know, it's funny I started off left. When someone tells me to do something, I'm always processing whether or not they're telling me for them or for me? Now, if I come to the conclusion that they're telling it for me then I sincerely make a concerted effort to try and dig in to that as hard as possible. So when people were telling me, well, you just listen to Clifford Brown, I was saying, well, damn, Booker Little's pretty good. Why am I not listening to him? Do you see what I'm saying? Whereas most, most, most kids don't have that type of thought process all the time, it's the conditioning.

So the thing about it is you have all these children that are coming up and everyone saying, well, you just listen to the Miles and Dizzy Gillespie, but they're not getting any Clifford Brown, they're not getting any Fats Navarro,they're not getting any Roy Eldridge, they're not getting any Louis Armstrong, they're not getting - I mean, the list goes on and on and on. So you're not - you're not going to actually be able to take the music a notch up or actually be put in a position where you can actually challenge these guys that have set this dynamic up if you're only listening to a quarter of the things that you need to be prepared for.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SCOTT: I don't think I'm the voice. I feel like I'm the person that's opening a pallet so that somebody can come and blow this stuff out of the water.

COX: How does that fight that you're fighting represent itself in the new CD, the live recording from Newport?

Mr. SCOTT: It's edgier than the records are. You hear everything happening immediately. It's like it's happening in live time, this is it. People are reacting to it. You hear mistakes. All these things are prevalent in the live recording. So I think it helps with the argument that people have come up with that they say, well, Christian Scott, you know, makes great studio records, you know, and, you know, there's probably, you know, editing going on and all these things, which is not really the case, but the fact of the matter is you can't argue that with a live record. But you can see and hear, and this in real time, nothing is edited at all, that that band is really playing well.

(Soundbite of music)

COX: And I appreciate your coming.

Mr. SCOTT: Man, thank you. I appreciate - a really honest, real interview.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCOTT: Because I don't get. You know, people ask me, you know I get some of the craziest questions. It's like I'm - I love Prince but I'm sick of talking about playing with Prince, like there's other stuff going on right now.

COX: Yeah.

Mr. SCOTT: You know what I'm saying?

COX: Yeah, I understand that. And you're welcome to come back and see us any time.

Mr. SCOTT: It's all good. I appreciate it.

COX: All right, trumpeter Christian Scott. His latest CD is called "Christian Scott Live at Newport."

(Soundbite of music)

COX: That's our show for today. Glad you could join us. To listen to the show or subscribe to the podcast, visit our Web site, To join the conversation or sign up for the newsletter, visit our blog at News and Notes was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Tomorrow, what's in a name? We'll look at the conventions and history of addressing our elders, our parents, and our president.

COX: I'm Tony Cox, this is News and Notes.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.