Christian Scott's fourth disc is further proof that he wants to be, and should be, an artistic force to be reckoned with for decades to come. Serious in scholarship and adventurous in conception, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow is meant to invoke the '60s, the heyday of bristling, highly attenuated ensemble jazz from the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, of anthemic protest-songs from Bob Dylan and Marvin Gaye, and of… read more »
Christian Scott's fourth disc is further proof that he wants to be, and should be, an artistic force to be reckoned with for decades to come. Serious in scholarship and adventurous in conception, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow is meant to invoke the '60s, the heyday of bristling, highly attenuated ensemble jazz from the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, of anthemic protest-songs from Bob Dylan and Marvin Gaye, and of a black consciousness that was nonviolent but unrelenting in its campaign to expose and correct social injustice (the title essentially paraphrases Dr. King's "Why We Can't Wait").
Two others beside Scott stand out on Tomorrow. The first is hallowed engineer Rudy Van Gelder, whose warm but capacious sound redefined modern jazz recordings a half-century ago with Coltrane, Davis, Thelonious Monk and other prominent artists on the Blue Note, Prestige and Impulse! labels. Aged 85 at the time of this session, Van Gelder provides his unmistakable imprint on the mix, simultaneously creating keen instrumental separation and the communal intimacy of the ensemble interplay. Among many examples, he subtly nods toward the electronic tinges of Radiohead on Thom Yorke's "The Eraser" (the lone cover song here) via slightly fuzzy distortion on the snare drums and cymbals, and creates a spectral wilderness for Scott's Miles-like trumpet lines on the minimalist ballad, "Isadora." The other co-star is drummer Jamire Williams, always near the forefront in Van Gelder's mix and the prime vehicle for Scott's more acrimonious political expression. It doesn't seem like a coincidence that Williams's pummeling rhythms and thudding texture dominates "K.K.P.D.," initials Scott says stand for Ku Klux Police Department. The drummer's turbulent propulsion is likewise at the heart of Scott's linkage of prison and slavery on "Angola, La., and the 13th Amendment," which builds a roiling tension so seamlessly that you notice it most when it abates.
Scott's trumpet solos are mostly devoid of rippling arpeggios and technical strut, opting for brassy but incisively brief declamations on the more political tunes (especially check "American't") and the vintage vibrato and forlorn poignance of Miles and other trumpeters of that period on the ballads. Guitarist Matt Stevens is less prominent this time out, but has a churchlike solemnity on the closing "The Roe Effect (Refrain in F# Minor)" which he co-wrote with Scott.
Due to Scott's past association with hip-hop and modern soul musicians, and the fiery tenor of Williams' beats, some pundits have noted a hip hop influence here. If so, it pales beside Scott's overriding desire to wield the energy and ambiance of the '60s in a contemporary jazz context. On that score, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow is a resounding success.