New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott has big shoes to fill as nephew of the famed saxophonist Donald Harrison. He's dropping an album right on the heels of former Harrison collaborator Terence Blanchard, whose latest, A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina), attempted to make the definitive post-diluvial lament. Above all, he's trying to navigate an increasingly fickle market, seeking that happy middle ground between jazz purists and hip-hop heads.
Scott manages these variables with remarkable alacrity. This new release masterfully combines a strong jazz pedigree with cosmetic ties to hip-hop (i.e., chalk outlines on the album jacket), and a noirish, gloom-and-doom sound that harks back to Radiohead. In effect, it's a jazz album for emo-lovers people who'd relish the rumbly piano and guitar reverb on opening cut "Litany Against Fear" (the title says it all), or the sullen, angry cadenza on "Re:". Scott must be a closet indie rocker, given that his unhurried, bluesy, minor-key songs transmit all the pathos and desperation of a Thom Yorke or a Robert Smith. He'll start on a crescendo and vaporize into nothingness, and he can make every note resonate with the sad, plaintive tone of someone crying in a stairwell. What the trumpeter lacks in technique he makes up for in emotion a quality that will surely endear him to fans outside the rarefied jazz world. Indeed, Anthem doesn't qualify as "jazz" in the traditional sense. But if you judge it on those terms alone, you've missed the point entirely. Rachel Swan
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