Thursday, June 23, 2011

THREE OF A KIND


Stefon Harris, David Sanchez, and Christian Scott have a few things in common. They’re Grammy nominated jazz musicians. (Sanchez won a Grammy in 2005 for best Latin Jazz Album.) They’re signed to Concord Records, and are the faces of  Concord’s jazz division. They’re successful bandleaders with a string of good jazz albums on the market.

Scott is younger than Harris and Sanchez, and presently Scott is more of a daredevil. Harris and Scott are time tested. Proving themselves is no longer a priority. I heard Scott for the first time in Detroit with alto saxophone player Donald Harrison’s band. Scott was only 17-year-old at the time. Scott had that rugged and piecing sound New Orleans’ trumpet players have. Scott had a lot of heart as well, and he seemed comfortable among musicians twice his age.

Harris and Sanchez hit the jazz scene in the mid-90’s when major record companies such as Atlantic, Blue Note, Criss Cross, Evidence, and PolyGram were giving young and promising jazz musicians such as Mark Turner, Christian McBride, Mark Shim, Cyrus Chestnut, and Anthony Wonsey sweet recording deals. Doing so upset many veteran jazz musicians because they couldn’t get the same although they had a fan base.

By 2000, those record companies downsized, and many of those promising jazz musicians lost their deals. Harris and Sanchez survived the downturn, and have successful recording careers.

On the new album Ninety Miles, which Concord Records made public on June 21, Harris, Sanchez and Scott, combine their work experience, resulting in one of the finest jazz album I’ve come across this year. Harris, Sanchez and Scott made Ninety Miles in Havana Cuba, which explains the album’s Cuban favor.

Ninety Miles starts out running and never makes a pit stop. Harris, Sanchez, and Scott brought to the session a swinger's mentality, and their distinct styles mesh.

The album has a bonus tracks, and a DVD that gives insight into the album’s creation. Including a DVD suggests Concord Records knew bringing Harris, Sanchez, and Scott together was epic. And their fans would enjoy a sneak peek of the making of Ninety Miles.

As a leader, Scott has been off course, preoccupied with fusing other forms of music with jazz. Scott hasn’t put out a red-blooded jazz album yet, leaving some jazz people wondering if Scott will ever return to his jazz roots. The wondering can stop because Scott is back to his jazz roots on Ninety Miles, blowing with heart and enthusiasm on City Sunrise, Black Action Hero, and Brown Belle Blues.

Harris and Sanchez are brilliant. Sanchez slow dances with his tenor on The Forgotten Ones. Harris probably has to rub down his vibraphone because of the workout Harris subjects it to on Brown Belle Blues and on La Fiesta Va. If Ninety Miles is hits--which undoubtedly the album will be--Concord Records should encourage Harris, Sanchez, and Scott to record together again.
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