by Jim Hynes
Inventive Jazz Pianist Dred Scott Does It All by Himself on ‘Rides Alone’ (ALBUM REVIEW)
Pianist Dred Scott has a mind-blowing versatile resume that could stand with anyone’s, yet he remains under the radar for many. We usually categorize in an artist in some genre and that would be jazz for Scott although he and his bands have also backed the biggest names in roots and pop with Levon Helm, Norah Jones, Bob Weir, Mary J. Blige and Pete Seeger, as just a few examples. Scott has played with the biggest names in jazz too and has delivered 11 self-produced albums as a leader and performed on over 50 others. Not surprisingly, he’s gained a reputation as an innovative and eclectic pianist and multi-instrumentalist. He can do it all as he does here on Rides Alone.
Playing piano, keyboard, bass, drums, and shaker; Scott takes us on a musical journey through his favorite part of the country, rural northern California. He wrote these seven songs, all except “Remember PN” by Eric Crystal ( in total 46 minutes) for a standard piano trio format, which, by virtue of overdubs, it sounds like. They were written during an artist residency at the UCross Foundation in Wyoming and recorded in California. This music, unlike much of his catalog, is eminently accessible. In fact, most of it is beautiful, evoking the serenity, abundant wildlife and the awe of the majestic mountains and mystical forests out west. Some of the titles create that impression like the opener “Coal Creek Road,” “Wonder,” “Flying Bighorn” and “Wild Turkeys.” In prior eras this is the kind of album that could possibly fit the ECM sound, yet it’s more earthy than ethereal. As the album unfolds, you could easily envision it as a soundtrack to those amazing films shown in the welcome centers of many National Parks. Who knows, maybe he was inspired that way. Scott does have notable history of composing film and theater scores as well as compositions for choreographers.
At the core of these tunes is jazz. “Gateway” is a great example of buoyant chords and a joyous melody, as if one had just come through a mountain pass. Yet, its music hearkens back in sound somewhere between Ramsey Lewis, Ahmad Jamal, and Horace Silver, heavily oriented to hard bop and soul jazz. Great pianists clearly echo through, none more recognizable than Scott’s nod to Professor Longhair in the grooving “Wild Turkeys.” It’s as much throw-back as it is contemporary though. You’ll hear strains of bands like Medeski Martin & Wood in “Flying Bighorn” as a prime example. Another contemporary aspect is on “Consolations” where Scott employs synths to create an atmospheric backdrop. The album’s resulting vibe is brimming with joy and enthusiasm. You may be smiling throughout the entire listen. Only the Eric Crystal tune, done mostly at a ballad tempo, has any hints of solemnity but that’s to be expected with a remembrance piece.
Even though Scott developed most of his prodigious chops in the San Francisco By Area, he is currently based in NYC and regularly performs with Sasha Dobson, The Bari Koral Family Band, Bump City, The Munchies, and The Dred Scott Trio. For the last six years, Dred has been the house pianist at Del Posto, the 4-star Lydia and Joe Bastianich restaurant in NYC.
With its joy, cinematic quality and melodic thrust. Rides Alone is a must listen piano trio album. Okay, call it a one-man solo album. Either way, listen up.