Christian Scott: “Ruler Rebel” Album Review

Written By: Sam Wilson

Twitter: @SamNHWilson

Two-time Edison Award winner Christian Scott has released his latest album (the first of three to be released in 2017) ‘Ruler Rebel’ – a creative blend of hip-hop and jazz of which Scott himself likes to refer to as ‘Stretch Music’, with the Grammy-nominated trumpeter disliking the term ‘jazz’ when describing his music. Inspired by musical greats like Miles Davis and Bob Dylan, Christian Scott aims to not just produce catchy music, but music that touches the heart of his listeners.

The album’s first song, ‘Ruler Rebel’, from which the album takes its name, a slow-building track which gradually gains the parts of more and more instruments – starting with synths and strings, developing with brass breakaways and perfected with electric drums and pianos to finalize the melody. The song is highly reminiscent of the smooth jazz days of Thelonious Monk and his contemporaries: an excellent example of how the jazz genre itself, evolving into this ‘stretch’ subgenre, has become a blend of the widely popular hip-hop genre and the traditional melodies and instruments of jazz.

The next two songs on the album, ‘New Orleanian Love Song’ and ‘New Orlenian Love Song II’ increases the tempo of the first track and becomes much more of a showcase of Scott’s personal skills on the trumpet. They both adopt Central-American and perhaps salsa vibes and although they may not be as technically impressive as ‘Ruler Rebel’, they are both great examples of Scott’s music.

‘Phases’ is the only song on the new album to feature vocals, and it features those of Massachusetts Jazz vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles. Slowing down the pace again, Scott is constantly toying with the overall tempo of the album, and with instruments sounding more akin to the psychedelic and alternative genres, Scott is further distancing himself and his music from the traditions of classic jazz.

The album features two tracks featuring young Jazz flutist Elena Pinderhughes, ‘Encryption’ and ‘The Coronation of X. aTunde Adjuah’ – which again contrast with the previous tracks by upping the tempo. Both songs feature more heavy and distinct percussion influences than the other tracks and the combination of Scott’s brass and Pinderhughes’ flute creates melodies intertwining with changes of pitch and tempo. ‘Encryption’ features a minor-based melody which almost makes it seem mysterious whereas ‘The Coronation..’ is far more up-tempo, major and uplifting.

The final track on the album, titled ‘The Reckoning’, seems to be a grand finale to Scott’s 8 track release. The song starts with a snare lift-off and is quickly intertwined with an up-tempo trumpet melody. This trumpet-heavy piece is definitely the best example of Scott’s skills on the trumpet and feels like a three-minute-long solo to conclude the album. However, Scott decides to leave the track devoid of any crescendo, simply gradually fading out his trumpet and letting the drum roll out.

The album has no clear rhythm or pacing to it as a whole, but still manages to come across as a creative evolution of historic jazz blending with the percussion-heavy elements of modern hip-hop and stands to be one of Scott’s most creative works yet.