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Dave Scott

I first ran into trumpeter Dave Scott at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Every Friday night, LACMA provides a year round showcase of some of the finest jazz on the West Coast, and it's free. I was familiar with Scott because he was an instructor for the jazz department at my alma mater, the University of Southern California, and he had a release on Vinny Golia's Nine Winds label, the premiere free jazz label in North America. The following is a candid portrait of the horn player that has quietly developed a loyal following in the Southland and of one who is deserving of international recognition. For a copy of Scott's recording, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Let's start from the beginning.

Dave Scott: I started because my dad was a trumpet player and my mom was a singer. They used to have a band, you know, a jazz band that they would work at country clubs. This happened when I was growing up, you know, so I was exposed to the music at a real young age. My dad started me on the trumpet when I was about five, then I lost my two front teeth.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Your two front teeth?

Dave Scott: Fred, they were baby teeth. So then I couldn't play, and then I started again when I was about ten. So basically, I have a musical family. My brother's a bass player, my grandfather was a musician, my mother's family were musicians. Anyway, that's how I got started. Then, my dad, he used to listen to a lot of different kinds of music, classical instruments...and he listened to a lot of jazz.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Let's touch on your influences for a moment?

Dave Scott: Oh, my father, of course. He was a very good musician. I learned a lot of what I know about music from him. He gave me a good foundation. As far as people that I listened to, Clark Terry had a big impact on me. He came to my school. We had a very good music program at our school. Clark and I kind of hit it off. I actually spent a couple of weeks with him in New York. He showed me all around New York and I even did a gig with his band. Clark was a big influence. Miles and Coltrane were probably my favorite musical influences.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: You're a resident of Los Angeles. How do you feel about the Los Angeles jazz scene? Do you feel that it lacks in a way compared to what's going on in the Bay Area or New York?

Dave Scott: Well, it's different. I spent three years in New York. I lived in New York from 1978 to 1981. Things were probably different then than they are now, you know? I still know a lot of people that live there, and I was recently there. The difference between the two places is that there are maybe more musicians in New York of a serious nature, you know what I mean? That's not to say that there aren't here, because there are a lot of serious musicians in Los Angeles too. I think that there's always been a kind of stigma test, L. A. being an industry town and all. Yeah, there certainly is a lot of that. There are also a lot of very serious jazz players here.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Is it tough for a local musician to get work in that environment?

Dave Scott: In the industry, I think if you're in New York, it's easier to get connected with a major label. It's easier one way, because you're in New York, but in another way, there are so many other people doing the same thing; there is so much competition. So, I wouldn't say that there isn't really that much difference.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Would it be correct to categorize Los Angeles as being driven more by contemporary jazz, or so-called smooth jazz rather than straight-ahead jazz?

Dave Scott: If you were going to compare it to a place like New York, maybe so, but still, that's not to say that there aren't some serious players right here in Los Angeles. And there are, guys like Bob Sheppard and Rob Lockhart, to name a couple of saxophonists. You know, I work with Kim Richmond's sextet, and Clay Jenkins was a good friend of mine; he was a very serious trumpet player. I mean, maybe there just aren't as many here because New York tends to draw more people than Los Angeles does. That's just what I consider it.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: What do you feel needs to be changed about the industry as a whole?

Dave Scott: Part of the problem with jazz is the public appeal. It's probably better off now than it ever has been. All these labels have been promoting all these new artists and jazz has become the new thing. In terms of the artistry of the music, I think that we're still striving for a level that was set back in the '60's with Miles and Coltrane, who took the music to such a high level. Now the music as a whole is trying to catch up.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Sonny Rollins described that period to me as the 'Golden Age' of jazz.

Dave Scott: Yes, and if you listen to that music, and you listen to what people are playing today, that music had such an impact. If you listen to saxophone players, you can hear the Coltrane influence. He took it to such a high level. The music as a whole too, what his band created, it wasn't just him.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: So many of these working bands during that time spawned future heavyweights and produced such innovation, do you find that the current climate makes that kind of development a thing of the past?

Dave Scott: Well, the continuity definitely makes a difference. Unfortunately, it's like any kind of art, when you commercialize it. Which, in one way is good for it, it gets more exposed, and it gives artists a chance to work. On the other hand, when you put in the influence, who really want to make money.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: In an effort to create a real commercial recording, record companies seem to throw together all-star bands who have seldom, if at all, worked together, is that damaging to jazz?

Dave Scott: I think that there are definitely bands that are created by labels that don't necessarily work. If the chemistry isn't right...you know? I think that's really a key thing. I am fortunate because I have got a group of musicians that I've worked with for a long time.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: You have a quartet. How long have you cats been playing together?

Dave Scott: Well, I've know Tony (Tony Malaby) for around three years. He lives in New York now. Billy and I would go out to Phoenix and play when Tony was there. I still play regularly with Billy. We also play with Clay Jenkins, and we call it the Two Trumpet Quartet. We play together a lot on a regular basis. Even if we're not working, we still get together and play, rehearse, write new stuff. It's like a workshop. Tony and I, the first time we played together, you could just tell that there was a musical match. We started to get together and play as much as possible when he was in Phoenix. The only time we get to really play together is when we're on tour, but there's definitely a magic there. The music grows every time we play.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Would you say that that has a great deal to do with the fact that you've played with these artists for a duration of time?

Dave Scott: Oh yeah, definitely.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: You are an educator at USC, what do you feel is the most important lesson for young artists to learn?

Dave Scott: I tell the kids at school that they should play as much as they can. When I went to school at North Tech, when I was growing up in Kansas City, I was always in situations where I was playing a lot. There were a lot of local musicians in Kansas City. Pat Metheny and I are actually only a year apart. He lived about fifteen minutes from where I did. He and I were friends, and we started a band. Two or three times a week, I would go over to his house. He had something set up in his basement, and we would just play. We had a little quintet that we would play with. We played new tunes and things. This was when we were about sixteen or seventeen. Then, when I went to school at North Tech, I was in a situation where there were so many musicians around, I would always be playing. I tell these kids at USC that sometimes you get reticent, but you need discipline; that's where you really grow.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: You play at the Museum a great deal, do you enjoy that?

Dave Scott: Yeah, I do, very much. It's really nice because it's a concert setting. I would much rather play in a concert setting than clubs. Every artist wants people to listen.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Do you find that the Museum is a really good opportunity for people who haven't experienced jazz to come out and see a free show with world class musicians?

Dave Scott: I tell the students at school to come every Friday because it's free, and there's always good music.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: How did your new record with your trio come about?

Dave Scott: This was shortly after Tony had moved to New York, and we get had been playing some gigs out in Phoenix. Tony was going to fly over to L. A. on his way to Japan. Billy and I were talking about setting up a recording gig with Tony. Well, one of those recording days was one of those really good days. We had really good equipment, a real good mike. We played acoustically, like we normally would if we got together, and it just turned out to be a really good day. We knew that the band had a lot of potential. Then, we decided to go ahead and make a CD.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Do you have a favorite tune on the album?

Dave Scott: I think all the music's really good on it. Probably, the first thing we recorded, was the good one. We actually recorded in the exact order of the songs on the CD. Things just worked out for the best that way. It's hard to pick one. The first ten were really good.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Favorite standards?

Dave Scott: Yeah, I like a lot of standards. 'I'm Old Fashioned' is one of my favorite tunes, 'Every Time We Say Goodbye.' There are a lot of standards that I like, and I really enjoy playing those standards even though the music that we play is a little more free-based, less structured, actually.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Do you find that you need that less structured material to stretch?

Dave Scott: I do. It presents a particular challenge. Structured music is challenging too, but the thing about structured music is, it has structure. The music is already there. The harmony is already there. The challenge is for you to create something to go over that that's interesting. The thing about music with less or no structure is challenging because you have to create everything. It's very challenging. The biggest challenge for me is the creative part of it. To try and keep the music interesting and to keep it working.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: If you weren't playing the trumpet, is there one particular instrument you would like to play?

Dave Scott: Well, as you know, Fred, I play the piano. I consider it my second instrument. We've also been incorporating more piano into the quartet. There's no piano in the CD, actually, because there was no piano available where we recorded it. Had there been, there probably would have been some piano in the CD. I played both instruments in high school. I played bass in the high school orchestra. To me, the sound of the bass is really beautiful. Actually, all instruments are beautiful.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: What do you have in mind for your future projects?

Dave Scott: We just finished a tour, and we do most of the booking ourselves, so we're probably going to start working on another album. There are a few things coming up locally too.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Do you plan on recording with the Two Trumpet Quartet?

Dave Scott: We have a lot of stuff recorded already. We have about three hours of music recorded, we just haven't put it out yet. I want to do something with that in the future.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Dave Scott
  • Subtitle: Up close and personal with jazz trumpeter Dave Scott
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