Yesterday You Said Tomorrow falls in the category of must have albums. You know the ones that you and your homies always reference and name drop when having convos “A Love Supreme” “In A Silent Way” . YYST will be one of those albums that is studied and name dropped, like the classics of the past. Much like Miles did, Christian Scott has changed the face of Jazz and offered something “new” to the genre. I caught up with him while he was out with Marcus Miller on a string of dates; the band was revisiting Miles (TUTU).
Scott: If I may, I’d like to quote some of your liner notes on Yesterday You Said Tomorrow; The driving force behind this document was to illuminate the fact that the same dilemmas that dominated the social and musical landscape in the 60’s have not been eradicated – only refined. This record looks to change this dynamic by reengaging these newly refined pre-existing problems in our societal structure in the same way our predecessors did.
Scott: Can you expound on some social issues happening now that have a particular depth to you?
Christian: Yes, there are actually a lot of them, so I don’t know where to start really. One social issue right now that I’m thinking about a lot is the devastation unfolding in the Gulf with the Oil spill. The fact that everybody seems to be up in arms about the situation. I can’t remember there ever being anything that’s affected something natural in our experience as much as this oil spill has in the Gulf region. I think one of the things people are not thinking about is the fact that on the front end of this situation is that Louisiana is a Red state and was adamant about wanting to drill, drill, drill and wanted people to mind there own business and let them do what they wanted with there resources. They also said that they didn’t want Big Government in Louisiana. Now if you notice, since everything has turned around and they’ve been effected and are at a disadvantage they’re blaming the Government, not just saying they want Government to fix the situation, of course, but they’re also blaming them. They’re saying a lot of negative and discouraging things about people who are trying there best to help them. I do think we need to acknowledge that a lot of Louisianans have done this to themselves by saying they want there state to be left alone, and now that it’s gone South everybody is crying for help. So it’s one of those things where, had they been more proactive about how they dealt with resources and oil and how they went about procuring it and refining it, they might not have this problem right now. Of course BP is to blame to a huge extent, but we also have to look at a vital factor and say listen. If we opt to do these things, offshore drilling, and create a societal structure where you say that you want certain things, then you get what it is that you get. You shouldn’t be mad at the consequences; you should just suck it up and fix the problem.
Christian: I was just in New Orleans and I have a summer camp I visited while I was there. What bothers me so much is the story would be all over the news and yes, it’s a really really bad situation. People would be watching the tv and pointing fingers and nobody would stop and turn to the individual next them and say. Well we’re the ones who wanted the Government to leave us alone, so we could drill as much as we wanted, and we wanted this and this and this and ultimately we are left with the ramifications of that. It’s really frustrating because nobodies been saying that as of yet, so I figure maybe I’ll be the first person to illuminate that, because it needs to be said.
Scott: Well you will be because you’re saying it here and now, it’s profound, and it is something that needs to be said.
Christian: It doesn’t mean that the situation isn’t going to get fixed, and people don’t want to fix it. There’s something called preventative maintenance. Essentially deciding when something makes cense for your community, or not. I think the biggest problem is they didn’t really care about how it would affect the community until it went down.
Scott: Man, its madness. How much oil is spewing out of the two holes a day, something like 2 million gallons?
Christian: Yea something like that, it’s crazy.
Scott: It’s completely unfathomable. The wasted resources, the absolute and complete devastation of vulnerable ecosystems and marine life is heart breaking. Plus, very key in this equation, we’re living in a time where Oil has peaked (PEAK OIL). So all of the resources that we have need to be micro-managed and used in a manner that enables us to steer away from being so dependant on Oil, and move towards wind turbines and solar power. All right let me change gears, *both start to laugh* because we could talk about this for hours. I want to ask you about “The Eraser” cover, when I first heard it I was knocked out, you did a fantastic job.
Christian: Thank you.
Scott: This is a 3 part question, why that song? Are you a Thom Yorke fan? And has he heard it?
Christian: The why for the song is, I heard it at a party and I thought it was dope. I went home and checked it out and thought it was really interesting conceptually what he was doing with the harmonies. I am a Thome Yorke fan, in fact he heard the cover and invited me to go on tour with him a few months back when he was doing some American dates. I would pop up in NYC or Oakland as a special guest and play “The Eraser” with him.
Scott: That’s tight! Did Matt Stevens come along and play guitar?
Christian: No, it was actually Thom and Flea with there band “Atoms for Peace”.
Scott: Very cool. What was it like working Rudy Van Geldar?
Christian: It was stellar! Killing! Rudy is a sweetheart man. There are a lot of stories about him that are completely untrue. Some of the negative ones like he won’t let you touch a microphone and he’s always wearing gloves in the studio, all that stuff is bullshit. It’s completely untrue. Like he’s one of the warmest people I’ve ever met, especially in the music industry. He’s so good at what he does, and you realize that when you’re in the studio with him. All of the techniques that are used when recording this music are his. It’s cool to work with the guy that’s the architect of that. I can remember when we were in the studio and he said something that related to the track musically and I was like all right we’ll have to give you a production credit now and he stopped me and said no. I don’t take any production credits. I’m not a producer. I’m a recording engineer. I thought that was really profound because most people in the music industry would say. “Hell yea I’ll take the production credit!”
Link to Scott Stewart Photshoot Feat Christian Scott:
Scott: Let me get some residuals.
Christian: Right, he was like that’s not what I do and not what I want to be known for. I thought that was cool and on top that he was just a really great cat. This is the guy who sonically created “the sound” in jazz the way it was recorded. Dig this; after we finished the recording he called everyone into the main room on the last day. He told us all he wanted us to know that the only way to describe what we had done in there was to call it “new”. Now for someone like him to say that, because remember he’s heard it all, from Coltrane to Monk to Miles, every generation of this music since he’s been around and for him to say our record was “new”. Man I can’t tell you how much that affected everybody.
Scott: This is difficult because of his vast and astonishing body of work, but if you had to pick that one Rudy Van Gelder album, which would it be?
Christian: A Love Supreme is my favorite.
Scott: Classic, I can dig it. The artwork on YYST has a great vibe to it, and it fits with the albums over all thematic concept.
Christian: Yea my brother Kiel did all of that. He shot a lot of the pictures with film, so they would have that grainy aesthetic. The process of making the artwork, from the layout to font and pictures was really hard work.
Scott: Right on, it looks great. Kiel has a great eye. He keeps me motivated and wanting to stay on top of my photo game *both laughing*. Your horn: The custom Christian Scott model, that’s been designed to your specifications correct?
Christian: Yes, it’s my custom model, CS Signature Model Trumpet, made by Getzen. It has a tilted bell and most people when they see it think of Dizzy. My horn is actually designed in the exact opposite fashion. The way that mechanism works is the total opposite of the way Dizzy’s bell works. Where his bell continued after the last turn and went up at about a 45 degree angle, my bell turns before you get to the last turn and goes up 22 degrees. Now the difference between them in sound is that Dizzy’s bell had an extra angle and it was higher so that gave him more back pressure, so it allowed him to play in the upper register more easily because of the pressure and it increased the sound a little bit. My bell was created to be free flowing so I can change the texture and timbre of the sound.
Scott: Can we talk a little bit about your technique, your sound and how it was obtained. The Whisper Technique.
Christian: At Berklee I had a lot of time to work on things and I wanted to refine a playing style that sounded like whispering. I had heard a lot of horn players playing in a manner that sounded like they were speaking loud, but I had never heard someone playing as if whispering. So I thought it would be an interesting thing to do, because I’ve learned from life experiences that there are different benefits in being able to speak to people in certain ways and tones. Music works the same way. I find that if you scream at someone typically there adrenaline gets going and there censes become heightened in a certain fashion just because you’ve offended some of there sensibilities by raising your decibel level. Where if you’re talking to someone in a whisper and you start to speak quietly they’re forced to listen to you in a different way then if you were screaming at them. So when you bring all of the factors into play with my trumpet design and the whisper technique it allows me to convey my vision.
Scott: Lets rap about gear. Fashion plays an integral role in your look, much like Miles in the 50’s with the tight Italian suits and scarf.
Christian; Yea I really dig fashion. I think clothes say a lot about people. The different cultures that your clothes can come from, the way they fit you, all of those things can have a profound effect on people when they see it. When I was growing up we didn’t really have the means, and now at this point in my career I like to try different styles to illuminate my character. I may be wearing something that I bought in Prague or an African shop. It could be something I picked up in the streets of Harlem. My attire is varied and wide ranging and it says a lot about who I am.
Scott: How was it working with Mickey Rourke on the upcoming movie “Passion Play?”
Christian: Mickey was real cool, he’s got a lot of style. He is who is and he’s not going to compromise that for anybody and that’s something I really dug about him. The rapport we had together was great. He learned so many things and I would drop little hints and show him things that most people would miss but man he picked up on all of that stuff. It was an interesting experience doing that film with him. The director Mitch Glazer actually let me direct some of the scenes where Mickey is playing the trumpet, it was an amazing experience. I told him about this Miles Davis video on youtube where he’s playing Walk’n and jumping octaves, and the way his face didn’t move at all and how Miles had refined his chops to a degree where he could make complex chord structures seem effortless. I thought that went in one ear and out the other, but when we started doing the takes, it was clear that this cat had really captured the nuances and done his homework.
Scott: Any chance he’s going to sit in with the band and blow some horn?
Christian: *laughing* That’s up to him, he’s more than welcome. I know he would kill it!
Photos & Words: Scott Stewart