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Christian Scott, Pouring Emotion Into Music

Christian Scott in NPR's Studio 4B.
Patrick Jarenwattananon
Christian Scott in NPR's Studio 4B.

At a youthful 27 years old, trumpeter Christian Scott, a native of New Orleans, recently joined NPR's Audie Cornish to talk about his journey to becoming a jazz musician.

"Usually people start to trace your path from when you start going on the road, and most guys start going on the road when they are when they're like 21, 22," he says. "But I started traveling when I was 13-14. I was the baby baby."

And Scott has been turning heads of both fans and critics since his 2006 Grammy-nominated debut album, Rewind That. Since then, he's released several albums, including his fifth and latest, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow.

Scott, who's been on the scene since his teenage years, has been called one of jazz's top innovators. He and his band recently performed at NPR's Washington, D.C., studios.

"I called my uncle [Donald Harrison, Jr.] up [as a youngster] and I was like, 'I want to play jazz. Can you teach me to be a jazz master?' " he says. "And he says, 'No, I can't teach you to be a jazz master. And I was like, 'Can you teach me to be a jazz musician?' That's how it started."

While at NPR, the band played its song "Angola, LA & The 13th Amendment," a somber piece about the 13th Amendment and the Bill of Rights, which Scott says is about the history of slavery in the United States.

He also explains something he calls "the whisper technique."

"Basically I'm playing with warm air," Scott says. "I remember being really frustrated and almost wanting to give up on it, and [then] I thought about trying to emulate my mother's singing voice."

Memories from his childhood in New Orleans are something he holds dear. They became especially significant after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area in 2005.

"Almost immediately after [the storm], the musicians were some of the first people to come back," Scott says. "New Orleans is one of those places — the musicians are like a mother with a baby in her womb; the baby is going to be her avenger, and the musicians are like that."

And Scott says his music is influenced most by his own emotions.

"Louis Armstrong didn't go to Berklee [College of Music] — he just felt," he says. "When I'm playing music, I'm just expressing how I feel, and that's not something you can learn in the classroom."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.