Wednesday, May 15, 2019

CD Review: Dave Scott - In Search of Hipness

Dave Scott
In Search of Hipness

Too often, being hip has a pejorative connotation, from the clueless protagonist in Bob Dorough and Dave Frishberg's "I'm Hip" to current-day hipsters selling their own kombucha or IPA. But trumpeter Dave Scott is taking back the word.

The hipness that Scott seeks has nothing to do with being designated as cool guy. He isn't being ironic either, in an effort to make jokes about being "hip with the kids" or anything like that. Hipness, to him, has a more zen quality. The title track, he explains in his liner notes, "speaks to the never-ending quest of enlightenment, musically or otherwise. The beauty of the creative process is that it is ongoing, and as artists we always strive to find a higher level."

Dig. Now that is heavy.

To some degree, In Search of Hipness feels like a live performance to these ears. Four of the seven songs last between 12 and 15 minutes. Not merely blowing vehicles, these pieces often include several sections. They also give the soloists chance to stretch and reveal themselves, and they aren't worried about keeping things to a certain length.

That being said, the opening track proves to be the exception. "Ludwig" is built on a rolling rubato melody inspired by Mr. Beethoven. It also serves as an introduction to the sextet's instrumentation. Along with Scott's trumpet, Sarah Bernstein's violin and Nate Radley's guitar play flowing melodies over a sinister foundation created by Jacob Sacks (piano) and Dave Ambrosio (bass). After stating the theme, this could have gone into any type of solos: free blowing or something played over a modal vamp both come to mind. Instead, "Ludwig" comes to a close after the theme, barely lasting three minutes but making a strong impact.

Scott's trumpet and Bernstein's violin make great melodic partners in "Time Dilation," a piece which changes time signatures three times during its theme.  In another bold move, Ambrosio's bass takes the first solo, going against drummer Mark Ferber's steady rhythm to really sing. Sacks' left hand descends down the piano next, moving away from the freedom in the right hand but always meeting the drums to accent the crash at the end of a phrase. When Scott enters for his solo, he sounds inquisitive at first. But like everyone who precedes him, he never lets the complex rhythm of the song constrain his melodic sense.

After a number of equally strong bits of adventure, Scott closes the set by playing "Black Hole" with a Harmon mute. The piece has harmonic freedom but the tone brings his scope full circle, showing the way that a trumpeter can take some Miles Davis inspiration and inject it with other things along the way. He says as much in the liner notes, but it's equally noticeable in the music, especially when put at the end of the album. While free improvisation and straight, chord-based music both have their values, Scott proves that they can coexist. And they can sound hip as well.

1 comment:

sulli said...

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