Dred Scott becomes a one-man ensemble on “Dred Scott Rides Alone”

Forthcoming Sept. 21, 2019, is Dred Scott’s latest album, “Dred Scott Rides Alone.” The album is interesting in its concept and execution. Scott plays all the instruments, all the while making the album sound as if there is an ensemble of players working together, coordinating their work.

With elements of hard bop and swing, “Dred Scott Rides Alone” is the kind of artful album whose appeal is not obscured. The album opens up ideas in listeners that allow them to imagine a variety of things in a wide-open mind trip. But  “trip” might be the wrong word here; the work is not psychedelic. The music is at once delicate, but forceful; whimsical, but grounded. The contradictions are what pull at listeners and get them into the music.

All of the songs on “Dred Scott Rides Alone” were written by Scott, except one, “Remember PN.”

About Dred Scott

Scott’s history as a musician is long and storied. It spans genres, but remains connected to jazz. He grew up in St. Louis and went to college in Ohio, but calls the San Francisco Bay Area home. In the San Francisco area, Scott was able to come into his own as a musician and began to earn a reputation as an innovative and eclectic pianist and multi-instrumentalist.

Over the course of his career, Scott has recorded 11 self-produced albums and has performed on more than 50 others. Scott has performed with a number of well-known performers, among them Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Bob Weir, Moby, Ricky Lee Jones and others.

Scott was a co-founder of the hip-hop jazz group, Alphabet Soup. In addition, he worked for five years as musical director for the AMFAR Cinema Against AIDS gala held every year during the Cannes Film Festival. His band backed Alan Cumming, Mary J. Blige, Chris Tucker, Milla Jojovich and Patty Smith.

Further proving his diverse range of talent, Scott was the on-camera musical director for 51 episodes of the kids’ yoga show, “Yogapalooza.”

Scott’s career has also found him producing works by Bruce Barthol of Country Joe and the Fish, and composing the music for the film, “Home.”

Scott is also known for his work for six San Francisco Mime Troupe productions, and actually performed in the film, “Once More With Feeling.” He has also composed for several choreographers.

“Dred Scott Rides Alone” came about as a series of songs that were written during an artist residency at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming. The music can be described as “sublime” and the album presents as a mature and melodic statement of life, love and the pursuit of beauty.

Currently, Scott is based in New York City, where he regularly performs with Sasha Dobson, the Bari Koral Family Band, Bump City, The Munchies, and the Dred Scott Trio. For the past six years, Scott has been the house pianist at Del Posto (in New York City) the four-star restaurant of PBS personality, Lidia Bastianich, and her son, Joe Bastianich.

“Dred Scott Rides Alone” by Dred Scott

That Scott has a long history of innovation and performance opportunities should surprise no one. Listening to this album, audiences get the feeling that the music came from years of experience, with music and life.

Here, Scott presents an album that is shocking in its inobtrusive way that it makes audiences think. Even if listeners envision wide-open places that are stark in their beauty, they have managed to grasp some of the sublime qualities found in Scott’s work.

The ensemble that Scott crafts by himself consists of piano, bass, drums, shaker and keyboard. These elements come to life on songs such as “Coal Creek Road.” In that track, the bass has an obvious groove and grounds the song. But the piano motif is hopeful and light and the shaker accents everything, including the drums that clatter softly. The piece might remind some people of a variety of songs about travel, about leaving one place for another. The feeling is not just energized, but the song feel as though it transports audiences.

The bass-rich “Wild Turkeys” is fun in the way it makes good use of what feels like an almost stop-and-start approach. The bass and drum exchange might remind some listeners of  The Digable Planets. The musicianship is stellar on this song and others, and “Dred Scott Rides Alone” shouldn’t be missed by new or veteran jazz fans.