The trumpet makes warriors out of its young princes, infusing their gifts with aspirations to conquer the sitting king after burning his land. Christian Scott hasn’t shied from a fight since he burst onto the scene. He covered Radiohead, rejected standards, broke with Wynton, and opened his own front in the battle for jazz’s future. On the cover of his fourth release, he scans the horizon while cloaked in Mardi Gras Indian feathers. In imagery and song, Scott makes clear: bowing is no option. Over the course of this two-disc collection, Scott attacks from multiple angles, yet never loses his cool. “Danziger” is a mini-opus that references Terence Blanchard’s most dramatic work. After gathering his storm and unleashing terror, Scott wisely inserts a break, an uneasy silence before the facts emerge. Then he reengages with shocking force to close out a document of the time. Guitarist Matthew Stevens and drummer Jamire Williams work this tension masterfully.
The song’s traumatic back story—Danziger bridge is where NOPD officers shot innocent people after Katrina—provides focus for composition, particularly for a young artist in bloom. In other songs, the logic is less clear, and Scott over-muses enough to make you wonder if a double album was necessary. There are 23 songs here; a record of the twelve best would make this a “classic.” The group kills it on “Jihad Joe,” laying out a challenging landscape for Scott to conquer, with Stevens charging alongside him. On “New New Orleans (King Adjuah Stomp)” and “The Red Rooster,” and in the corners of other tracks, the Radiohead influence is unmistakable. Have no fear of fusion, though. Scott is interested in contemporary beats and cold defiance, not merely blowing over rock time signatures. Poise is his greatest weapon and the crown is in view.