Anthem is the work of a hard-working young man with his ears wide open and his head...
Paul Sullivan 2008-01-31
Having already made waves in the jazz world with his Grammy nominated debut, Rewind That, 24-year-old trumpeter Christian Scott is back with his sophomore project: Anthem.
Written in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans – Scott’s former hometown - Anthem is a dark, sometimes despairing document that meditates on the disaster as well as charting changes in the musician’s burgeoning career and personal life.
The beguiling mix of despondency and hope that ooze from opening track Litany Against Fear – think ringing electric guitars, sprawling post-rock rhythms and pounding piano creating an apocalyptic soundscape over which Scott writes plaintive messages in the air - act as a signpost for the rest of the album.
Guitars, drums and keys, played by Matt Stevens, Marcus Gilmore and Aaron Parks respectively (amongst others), feature prominently on many of Anthem’s songs, transforming them from standard jazz fare into hybrids of jazz, indie rock, hip hop and soul.
It’s these instruments, often more than Scott’s trumpet, that invest the tunes with such heavy emotional appeal – look no further than the blistering, climbing, pounding piano that marks Anthem, the chafing rock guitar of Void, and the weighty bassline that anchors Cease Fire.
The spirit of hip hop can also be discerned on Cease Fire, as well as throughout the frisky groove of The 9 and - most notably - on funky finale Anthem (Post Diluvial Adaptation), which sees X-Clan's Brother J throw down his conscious verbals to match Scott’s fierce trumpeting.
Scott generally holds his own over the record’s waves of rhythmic sound, coming through with open-minded, subtly exploratory playing that’s never overly showy or complex, nor too surreptitious. On mellower tracks like Remains District, the warm and swirling Like That and Katrina Eyes, most of which carry a more ‘straight-up’ jazz vibe, you get to hear the Davis-esque tinge of his trumpet with a little more clarity.
Rangy and savvy, lyrical and explosive, Anthem is the work of a hard-working young man with his ears wide open and his head firmly down.