Kendrick Scott At The ‘Height of Optimism’

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​Drummer Kendrick Scott wrestles with self-doubt on his latest album, A Wall Becomes A Bridge (Blue Note).

(Photo: Todd Cooper)

Scott’s decision to let someone else fiddle with the tracks took a substantial leap of faith, one that a performer dealing with a crippling bout of insecurity generally wouldn’t take. But Scott has learned that trust is an essential part of creative relationships. When he gets the call from Charles Lloyd to play a gig or is brought in for a studio session, the implication is that the bandleader trusts him to bring the goods without requiring too much direction.

That’s also the level of trust Scott has built up with with his Oracle bandmates. He’s known all of them for years. Scott and Moreno met as students at the prestigious High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. He and Eigsti have performed together with Blanchard and as members of Gretchen Parlato’s quartet. And Ellis and Sanders have been in and out of each other’s orbits for years, before helping to form the nucleus of Oracle. Without a baseline of friendship, A Wall never would have happened.

“If I think about it, if I did this record in this same way with people who aren’t very close to me or I don’t have that trust in, the product wouldn’t be the same,” Scott said. “Even though I didn’t know what the product would be, I know the personalities of the people that I’m writing for. The stuff that I did write, I knew they would be able to play and interpret.”

Knowing that, too, means that Scott can shrug off the difficulties that he and Oracle were having onstage in Portland, and that the band can keep pushing until it creates something beautiful and unique. The rest of the audience might have been none the wiser, but watching the ensemble get pulled apart by technical difficulties and hearing them recalibrate, becoming a cohesive unit once more, was a thrilling musical experience.

As for Scott, working through his creative block and coming out the other end with a substantive album—turning that metaphorical wall into a bridge—has had an obvious impact on his creative mind and his day-to-day life. It’s not so much fearlessness as it as a resolute calm that comes from knowing that with the right mindset and the right people in his corner, he can survive anything.

“Wayne Shorter says, ‘Music is but a drop of water in the ocean of life,’ and I really believe that,” Scott said. “I feel like music is only a reflection of the life that’s being lived. So, I definitely see that all these insecurities are within me, and sometimes I’m better at managing it than others. Part of making this record has also become a mantra for me when I’m dealing with these issues; for me to just say in my head, ‘Whenever you’re dealing with insecurity, this wall is going to become a bridge’ ... . That, for me, is the height of optimism that I’m trying to get myself to live in musically and outside of music.” DB

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