Kendrick Scott / Kendrick Scott Oracle

The Source

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Since winning a scholarship to Berklee School of Music -- where he majored in music education -- upon graduating high school in 1998, the young jazz drummer experienced an exciting whirlwind of opportunities as an in-demand session player. Among his big résumé dates leading up to this impressive, spiritual minded debut by his ensemble the Kendrick Scott Oracle were gigs with Joe Sample, the Crusaders, Stefon Harris, Lizz Wright, Maria Schneider, Terence Blanchard, David Sanborn and Dianne Reeves. Two of the key Scott-composed tracks on The Source originated in a few of these sideman situations. The easy swinging, dual sax-driven opener "View from Above" (which features the fascinating interplay of Seamus Blake's tenor, Myron Walden's alto and Scott's highly percussive skinning), was inspired by a theme Reeves sang on one of the live dates Scott played with her. Though tucked deeply in the tracking at slot nine, the lush and elegant, contemplative title track originally appeared on Blanchard's 2005 disc The Flow; Herbie Hancock's solo on the original earned a Grammy nomination. The new version is a lyrical, atmospheric delight, complete with Scott's soaring wordless vocals. The drummer shows a love for influences beyond the jazz realm on the ultra-trippy "Mantra," which features guitarist Lionel Loueke and pianist Robert Glasper joining in to create a swirl of West African folk sounds, hip-hop flavors and neo-soul. From this type of vibrancy, Scott goes deep, out there and gloomy on a somber, chamber music flavored take on Björk's "107 Steps"; another track that takes away from the cool flow -- at least for the first few minutes -- is the strange, experimental and spacey "Memory's Wavering Echo," which only kicks into cool jazz and retro-soul gear after a longwinded and meandering new agey intro. Fortunately, those are the only real downers, and the Oracle swings back gently to action on a mix of ballads (typified by "Journey," featuring a mystical vocal by Gretchen Parlato) and sensual, contemporary jazz gems like "VCB," which has a cool Fourplay vibe. A drummer and composer of great invention, Scott may not always hit the mark with every attempt at innovation, but there's no doubt his devotion to progressive jazz will serve the genre well in the future.

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