“Kendrick Scott has become the Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and Tony Williams of his generation,” says the renowned trumpeter and bandleader Terence Blanchard of his longtime drummer who makes his own Blue Note debut with the release of a remarkable new album, We Are The Drum. “He’s a brilliant mind bringing innovation to the music at the same time as creating a safe place for young talent to develop and grow.”
That kind of musical apprenticeship is key to the development of young jazz artists as Blanchard well knows having himself spent pivotal years with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. In the decade that Scott occupied the drum throne in Blanchard’s band, he had the opportunity to learn first-hand from an established master who gave Scott the space to find his own voice both on his instrument and as a composer. In turn, Scott took that experience and founded one of the premiere new ensembles in jazz: Kendrick Scott Oracle.
Scott originally formed Oracle in 2006, and the band currently features a top notch collective of young musicians capable of a wide range of musical expression: saxophonist John Ellis, keyboardist Taylor Eigsti, guitarist Mike Moreno, and bassist Joe Sanders. With We Are The Drum, Scott becomes the fourth alumni of Blanchard’s band to sign to Blue Note as a solo artist following in the footsteps of other leading voices of his generation including guitarist Lionel Loueke, pianist Aaron Parks, and bassist Derrick Hodge who produced the album.
Although the session is led by the drummer, Scott makes clear that “it's not a percussion centered recording. Everybody is invested in it in a different way. Everybody contributed. The accent is on ‘we’ in the title. There is a sense of community in how it was created and how we work together. There is a lot of space for each player to have their say.”
Indeed each of Oracle’s members has a songwriting credit on We Are The Drum, including six compelling new originals by Scott. The 11-track album also includes a cover of the Flying Lotus song “Never Catch Me” as well as a feature spot for the vocalist Lizz Wright who co-wrote “This Song In Me” with Hodge.
The new album kicks off with “We Are The Drum,” which was co-written by the band. “It's about each of us realizing one person’s power to make a difference in the world in which we live,” says Scott, adding that “it actually began as a chant.” The tune builds in swirls of sound, releasing the tension to make way for a spacious solo from Ellis on tenor saxophone before coming to its climax. “John Ellis' range is amazing,” says Scott. “He’s extremely soulful and modern.”
Ellis’ “Make Believe” follows with a dreamy wash of melody, Ellis’ soprano saxophone lines leading the way before eventually intertwining with Moreno’s guitar. The track flows beautifully into “This Song In Me,” on which Wright has never sounded better. “Lizz’s sound is so organic and possesses a powerful transparency. I have long loved Lizz's voice and was quite thrilled to have her contribute to this project.”