On Wednesday, the same night that veteran pianist Chick Corea was looking to the music of Bud Powell for inspiration on the Sunset Strip, his younger colleague Stephen Scott was proving himself to be very much his own man. Scott's first night of a two-night stand leading a trio at the Jazz Bakery was marked by his emphatic individuality in both playing and composing.
The small turnout in no way put a damper on Scott's enthusiasm at the keyboard and the pianist delivered a set that was both emotionally transporting and intellectually engaging.
Championed early in his career as an emerging talent with a voice of his own, the 27-year-old Scott has found his latest album, "The Beautiful Thing" (Verve), criticized for leaning too much on the sounds of McCoy Tyner and Ahmad Jamal. While Scott acknowledged both (and others) during the 90-minute show, he left no doubt that his style was uniquely his own.
Scott's original tunes showed a wide and varied sense of mood and rhythm, and single compositions often moved back and forth through a number of tempos and feelings. His long, four-part opus, "The Renaissance Suite," turned easily from upbeat to ballad pacing, with swing, samba and droning modal rhythms falling somewhere in between.
These changes, sometimes coming at unexpected places, were given seamless treatment by bassist Chris Thomas and drummer Gregory Hutchinson as Scott flashed them hand cues from the piano. Hutchinson was particularly adept at following and complementing Scott's constantly shifting sense of rhythm.
Above all, Scott showed solid confidence and maturity, keeping his embellishments to a minimum and allowing time for particularly ambitious lines to settle in place before charging off on others. Scott's strong personality runs contrary to the current trends of revivalism and rehash, and is just what today's jazz world needs.