"When I play, I’m told I’m very intense," Verve pianist Stephen Scott said recently. "That’s because I’m not out there to gimmick or show off technique. I’m playing to get to the meat of the music. To be honest. That’s what Betty Carter always told me, ‘be honest’."
Clear acknowledgement of his promise, his honesty, his awakening genius, Aminah’s Dream continues the brilliance. As with Something to Consider, released in ’91, Scott wrote the majority of the compositions for this recording. Eventually a trio date (augmented by horns) Aminah’s Dream features the eternal duo, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Elvin Jones. Called upon to lend their knowledge, power and support, Scott admits, "In writing the music for this date, I had them in mind." The admiration is mutual – when they finished the session, Jones was so impressed he said, "I’d love to take him (Scott) home with me!"
Quite an affirmation for a young man only 24. But then Betty Carter called Scott a genius at 18. In fact critics and fellow musicians have raved about Scott’s talents since he won the Young Talent Award from the National Association of Jazz Educators in 1986.
Upon the release of Something to Consider, Lee Jeske wrote in the New York Post, "These days, good young mainstream jazz pianists are fairly common, but Stephen Scott is something else. Stephen Scott flirts with greatness." In the Hartford Courant Owen McNally stressed, " Unlike some of the overly hyped young media darlings, Scott plays with a maturity and a sure sense of swing far beyond his years." And in reviewing a recent concert date, Peter Watrous remarked in the New York Times, "Mr. Scott is an exceptional pianist who isn’t afraid of using silence or riffs or late-night deep blues figures, or reharmonizing his own melodies. Hearing him is hearing an agile, inventive mind at work."
Explaining his secret of success, Scott says, " I want to be able to create that driving spirit. There is a certain force, a certain drive, a respect of the music. That is what I’m trying to achieve."
Scott names Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell and McCoy Tyner as his primary influences, but then he also adds Wynton Kelly, Sonny Clark, Herbie Hancock, Fats Waller and Nat Cole. When it comes to writing, Scott greatly admires Wayne Shorter and Booker Little.
His mother started Scott on the piano when he was five. At 12, he entered Julliard and studied privately. It was during high school that Scott’s friend, Justin Robinson, introduced him to jazz, and by 18, he was backing up Betty Carter. He also played with Jon Hendricks before joining the Harper Brothers in 1989. In addition to gigging with Roy Hargrove, Ron Carter, Buster Williams, Bobby Hutcherson, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Scott has turned up on some exciting discs recently. He’s featured on an upcoming big band album saxophonist Bobby Watson, Justin Robinson’s Verve debut, Justin Time, and Joe Henderson’s Grammy-winning Lush Life.
On Aminah’s Dream, Scott’s friends return the favor. Along with Carter and Jones, Scott’s "choir of horns" features Robinson on alto saxophone, Don Braden on tenor, Terell Stafford on trumpet, Jamal Haynes on trombone, and Bob Stewart on tuba.
Dedicated to his newborn daughter, two compositions on Aminah’s Dream reveal the importance Scott places on family – the title track and "Positive Images", inspired by the long-standing unity of Scott’s parents. And in addition to original tunes like "Behind the Scenes", "When God Created Woman", and "In the Spur of the Moment", (intriguing titles as well as compositions), Aminah’s Dream features two of Scott’s favorite standards, Woody Shaw’s "Moontrane" and Roger’s and Hart’s "You Are Too Beautiful".
A diligent student of the masters, Scott has fashioned into shape an appealing style, reflective of his culture’s victories, triumphs and glories. A culture bearer for his generation, Scott’s music is as colorful and resourceful and as sophisticated and vibrant as its source.
On Aminah’s Dream, the singular and highly creative work of Stephen Scott signals an artistic vision that has come to fruition.