I SEE U, Episode 98: A Kindred Spirit in Kendrick Scott

Acclaimed composer, drummer and Houston-native Kendrick Scott, expresses himself musically with an artistic passion for revealing untold histories through community activism and introspection.


Acclaimed Jazz Drummer Kendrick Scott with artwork from his DACAMERA show Unearthed


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Renowned composer and drummer Kendrick Scott is putting anecdotes of his learnings from mentor and distinguished trumpeter, Terence Blanchard, into action by leveraging his musical gifts into a visceral artform of healing and redemption. Through original music mixed with poetry and striking visuals, the multimedia event entitled, "UNEARTHED," featured Scott collaborating with former Houston poet laureate, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, the acclaimed Harlem String Quartet along with a trio of talented jazz musicians. Hosted by the arts organization, DACAMERA, the production served as a tribute to the tragic history behind "Sugar Land 95," the collective name given to the 94 Black men and one woman who were part of a state-run convict leasing program of the late 1800s following the abolition of slavery. Their bodies, buried in unmarked graves, were discovered five years ago during an excavation project in the now trendy suburb of Sugar Land, Texas.

I SEE U ventured offsite to tour an exhibit of the Sugar Land 95 Memorial Project in Episode #46. Efforts to expand the memorial are currently underway with the construction of an outdoor learning area and a revitalized cemetery slated to be completed by 2025. In this week's episode, host Eddie Robinson chats in-studio with Houston-native, Kendrick Scott about his decision to shed light on an untold, dark history. We'll hear exclusive audio excerpts from the one-night-only event which premiered in May at Houston's Wortham Theater. Scott also shares inspiration behind the creation of his band, Oracle and reveals how the pandemic, the quarantining, as well as the isolation all played a significant role in the recording of his latest Blue Note release, Corridors.

Check out our companion Spotify playlist that celebrates acclaimed composer, drummer and Houston-native, Kendrick Scott. This playlist includes Scott’s many inspirations, current collaborators and heroes.


Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Eddie Robinson: Acclaimed musician Kendrick Scott tells I SEE U he’s more than just a drummer. He says the drum is the vehicle that he drives to get to his destination. It’s not who he is as a person.

[00:00:14] Kendrick Scott: For me, the music is a call and the art is a call to action. How can you inspire somebody to… go outside of themselves.

[00:00:21] Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson. Stay tuned as we chat unguarded with renowned composer and Houston native Kendrick Scott. We’ll explore his music, his inspiration and find out why it’s so important for him as an artist to not hide behind the drums. Plus, he’ll share with us what intrigued him about Sugar Land 95. That’s the memorial project where 94 black men and one woman were buried in unmarked graves just miles away from his childhood home.

[00:00:52] Eddie Robinson: Oh yeah, I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U .

[00:00:58] Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U . I’m your host, Eddie Robinson. Drummers provide the heartbeat, the rhythm of the song. The pulse, the core, this person lays the foundation and actually becomes the leader in ushering in the emotions and aesthetic of the song for the band.

[00:01:23] Eddie Robinson: Houston’s own Kendrick Scott has been doing just that. As a drummer for his own bands and as a collaborator with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Terrence Blanchard, and the Crusaders. He’s a graduate of Houston’s famed High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. A school which planted musical seeds for global talents like Robert Glasper and Beyoncé. But Scott isn’t just about the music, the beat and the notes all coming together to form a piece of music. It’s all about positioning that music to the consciousness of the community. about being Black with all the challenges, the triumphs, and struggles that come with that. It’s something he learned from his mentor, trumpeter Terrence Blanchard, who in turn learned it from another drummer, Art Blakey, whose jazz messengers came to be known as the University of Jazz. As music critic Giovanni Russonello wrote, Blakey was playing music that was meant to pull people together. And that was why I think he became such a great mentor. That beat was a rallying cry.

[00:02:50] Eddie Robinson: And it was also a gathering place. Kendrick Scott is a true heir of that musical worldview. Earlier this year, he commemorated Sugar Land 95 with a unique performance titled Unearthed, evoking the tragic history behind the discovery of the remains of 95 Black people in unmarked graves in Sugar Land, Texas.

[00:03:13] Eddie Robinson: These unnamed individuals were convict laborers. swept back into slavery by another name in the post civil war era known as convict leasing a system which allowed prisoners who were arrested for petty crimes like vagrancy and Were forced into backbreaking and often fatal labor in the sugar fields of Texas And while this production would be amazing enough on its own, Kendrick is also a working musician, fresh off performances with Herbie Hancock, in addition to his latest release on Blue Note, entitled Corridors.

[00:03:53] Eddie Robinson: He’s with us here to talk in studio about all of his incredible work. We’re pleased to welcome to the show, Kendrick Scott.

[00:04:00] Kendrick Scott: Thank you so much for having me, Eddie, and I SEE U .

[00:04:03] Eddie Robinson: You know, Kendrick, the year 2023 serves as a fifth anniversary year of the remarkable discovery of unmarked graves of individuals collectively known as the Sugar Land 95 on a property owned by Fort Bend ISD.

[00:04:21] Eddie Robinson: Construction crews discovered the first human remains while backfilling a trench in early 2018. And over the next several months, archaeologists found even more burial sites, ultimately leading to the discovery of the remains of 94 men And one woman, a group believed to be a part of the convict leasing program that began in the late 1800s following the abolition of slavery.

[00:04:51] Eddie Robinson: And so your piece, Kendrick, Unearthed, that you performed at Houston’s DECAMERA earlier this year, tells us this story. We’re going to play some excerpts of this beautiful performance in just a few minutes, but Kendrick, what was your reaction to this discovery when you first heard this story?

[00:05:10] Kendrick Scott: Oh, I was in awe when I read the article about Mr. Reginald Moore and, and reading about how he knew about the Sugar Land, how he knew about the people that were buried that were out there, but he didn’t know where they were.

[00:05:25] Reginald Moore: But I knew they were graves out there because they had to be buried somewhere and they knew that when he died and they were dying by, uh, you know, by the tens and hundreds.

[00:05:34] Kendrick Scott: And how he went to the city council. Every week and I told him, he’s like, there’s some people buried out here because he used to work at one of the prisons and someone told him that those, that those burial spots were there and he was being ignored. And so what really piqued my interest was here’s a Black man that’s being ignored.

[00:05:54] Kendrick Scott: Who is trying to find some Black people who were being ignored. Wow. And the layering of that just, just intrigued me to the highest.

[00:06:05] Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton: I wrote to every council person I could reach. Sat by while their meetings set like evening suns. Dozens of emails unread, cacophony of calls. I tried to tell you that you were breaking holy ground. That your suburbs were haunted. First colony gravesite, but still. Still no mention of their names, numbers, no one willing to just look just a quiet Reginald. There’s nothing we can do, Mr. Moore. You have no proof.

[00:06:39] Kendrick Scott: Learning from my man, my mentor, uh, Terrence Blanchard. You know, one thing that I learned from him is you are here to create space and not to take up space.

[00:06:49] Kendrick Scott: You know, if I’m here just playing some music, I can go out and just play some jazz or whatever and have a good time. But what am I doing with my music? And for me, I wanted to create space for the world to know about who Sugar Land 95 was, you know what I mean? To create a space where everybody says, well, what is this?

[00:07:08] Kendrick Scott: Why aren’t you just playing, you know, just, you know, It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing. That’s right. It’s like, you know, I can do that too. But. You know what? What about these 95 people that were here? You know and so just to bring the world’s gaze to that in this time where we need it and especially right here in Houston, Texas where all of this history is That’s only 16 miles away from my childhood home.

[00:07:36] Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton: We swore one day we’d call this place home White mansions and manicured lawns somehow always blossoming green.

[00:07:45] Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton: Where the earth is unforgiving and the Texas sun beats down so hot you swore it had a whip and a chip on its shoulder. Where the southern drawl meets sweet tea on a porch swing, this imperial land been saccharine long before the refinery in 1896. Back when the suburbs weren’t just called plantations, but were master planned indeed.

[00:08:07] Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton: Where the rich took two lumps in their coffee and the enslaved could only dream. We call this our promised land. Out there on the edge of Fort Bend where if your skin was pale enough and your family had a certain name, you too could be crystallized in history. Leave a legacy like the Holy Trinity itself.

[00:08:29] Eddie Robinson: Do you personally think, Kendrick, that racial tensions would heal or things would get better if we as a nation didn’t shy away from these untold, horrific parts of our past? You know, what do you think would make things better?

[00:08:44] Kendrick Scott: One of the things that I was recently faced with and I thought about it and it kind of correlated everything for me is when you go to the doctor’s office, what are the first things they ask you they ask you who your name is? Do you have any family history?

[00:08:59] Eddie Robinson: Yes.

[00:09:01] Kendrick Scott: Of, of anything. They won’t even start helping you until they learn about your history. Oh, does anybody in your family have diabetes? Did anybody have cancer? Did anybody have this? And I feel like, as a country, we need to go through that reckoning. The reckoning of, you know what?

[00:09:18] Kendrick Scott: We had slaves in this country and then after that we said no more slavery, but the 13th amendment said, you know, unless we can’t have any more slaves unless they are in prison and then we enslave people again, right? So once we go to the doctor’s office and reckon with our history and just say, you know what, let’s move forward from here.

[00:09:41] Kendrick Scott: And when we know our history, just as in the doctor’s office, it doesn’t mean that you have that. You know what I mean? It just means that this has happened in the past. So how can we avoid that for you going forward? And I feel like the more we learn about our history, the more we can move forward with knowing what’s been happening right underneath our noses.

[00:10:01] Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton: Give us our names. Titles lost to the language of ghosts. Forced to till Purgatory’s plantation until even our souls were too tired to stand. 95 bodies sprawled over Bullhead Camp. 95 of our families still waiting to fill the blanks in history. Give us back our legacy. Branches impaling memories on broken family trees. Unidentified loved ones fading in the tall grass and the high hate.

[00:10:34] Eddie Robinson: What do you want, listeners? Fans to experience and walk away with after they’ve checked out this production. What do you want them to take away as they’re walking out?

[00:10:46] Kendrick Scott: For me, the music is a call and the art is a call to action. How can you, uh, inspire somebody to go outside of themselves?

[00:10:55] Kendrick Scott: Of course we can just sit here and enjoy the art as it is. But if the art isn’t a call to action for me, that’s just for me, um, you know, uh, that is the highest because I grew up in the Baptist church right around these, around these parts. And when you go to church, you know, The call to prayer is, you know, the altar call is for this, this is, you know what I mean?

[00:11:18] Kendrick Scott: So every part of the music is built for an action. So to me, that’s what my, I write my music for.

[00:11:25] Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton: We are more than an unknown marker, a dust lost to the Texas wind and sun. We are more than the profit shares or crop production or sprawling piles of shallow graves. When will you learn that the sugar of this land can’t be contained in a silo? Can’t be measured by granule or pound, but it’s built off the DNA of us reckoning it’s our deepest mistakes. It is digging out the skeletons if only to learn how to stop hiding the bodies.

[00:12:00] Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson, and we’ve been speaking with acclaimed musician, drummer, composer, Kendrick Scott. Though he lives in New York City now, he’s a native of Houston, and we’re so grateful to have him in studio with us while he’s in town for a performance honoring Sugar Land 95. Um, you know, you, you grew up here in Missouri City, um, you know, tell us more about what it was like in your household.

[00:12:26] Kendrick Scott: Growing up. One of the greatest things was just to see my mother, classical musician and gospel musician. She went to university of North Texas and my brother is also a pianist and my dad did sound reinforcement and video. So we were right there at Brentwood Baptist church and my mother would be. Up there, choir directing and playing and my brother would be playing and my dad would be in the soundboard So, you know after church, I will go up and and bug Eric Porter I’ll say Eric, can I sit on the drums and he’s like, come on, you know, I tap him on the shoulder He’s like man, what what do you want?

[00:13:05] Kendrick Scott: And I’m just like can I sit down at the drums after the service? You know, it’s a line of kids You know, always that want to sit at the drums and that’s where it’s all started.

[00:13:13] Eddie Robinson: And this, I mean, your passion were the drums.

[00:13:16] Kendrick Scott: Yeah.

[00:13:17] Eddie Robinson: And that was your first instrument. What was it about it? Why the drums?

[00:13:22] Kendrick Scott: Yeah. I mean, it was the heartbeat, uh, for me and always tell the story. You know, I was at home and I don’t know, I was six years old and I had just had this huge urge. So I took my Halloween Jack O ‘Lantern, the little plastic gentle Jack O ‘Lantern, I turned it over and I made that into a snare drum and then I had shoe boxes and then I took some hangers, some, some of the pant hangers, I took that apart and made sticks out of that.

[00:13:49] Kendrick Scott: But my one mistake was I used. records as cymbals. I went and got some records and my parents didn’t like that, so I got in trouble for that.

[00:14:07] Kendrick Scott: But then my mom recognized that I, that I wanted to play drums. And my mom being my mom, the piano teacher that she is, she’s like, well, you gotta learn how to play piano first. You know, and so me and my brother had different experiences. So I was like, all right, I’ll take the lessons. And my brother was like, no, I don’t want to take the lesson. So my brother learned how to play music by ear.

[00:14:29] Eddie Robinson: Oh.

[00:14:30] Kendrick Scott: Crazy enough. So my brother just shows up playing one day and my mom was like, how did you? You know, just natural talent. And I had to go to school and learn how to, you know,

[00:14:40] Eddie Robinson: The notes.

[00:14:41] Kendrick Scott: Yeah. I had to learn every, yeah. You know? So it was both. It’s one of those things where you could see how God works in different ways, you know, and so that was the beauty of how I grew up. And then I went to, uh, Lanier Middle School for, for a year and then I went to came out here and went to Cullen Middle School for two years. And then I went to The High School For, for, for The Performing and Visual Arts.

[00:15:07] Kendrick Scott: And then I went to Berklee College of music. And then I got some gigs and moved to New York and I’ve been in New York 20 years.

[00:15:14] Eddie Robinson: The city of Houston, you know, it’s got this rich musical history. You know, you’ve got award winning artists and you know, like yourself, Beyoncé, Lizzo, Robert Glasper, Megan Thee Stallion, Bun B, the list goes on.

[00:15:26] Eddie Robinson: But what do you think it is about the city that also builds on an energy where so many people of different races, of different ethnicities actually gravitate to music of these Houston artists?

[00:15:38] Kendrick Scott: Wow. When I think about the lineage of, of all the great music that’s come out of Houston, that’s what really gets me. Uh, you know, when I think about, uh, Johnny Guitar Watson.

[00:15:51] Eddie Robinson: Yes. Wow. I forgot about him.

[00:16:01] Kendrick Scott: And then think, forgot about him. Then think about the Ghetto Boys and then think, you know what I mean?

[00:16:17] Eddie Robinson: Right.

[00:16:17] Kendrick Scott: Then think about so many things like I don’t know how to explain it actually, you know The best I can explain it was my first one of my first gigs was playing with Joe sample And I’m playing with Joe Sample and the Crusaders and just sitting with them and hearing about the old times and hearing about how this music is born in the soil and how we have to play that.

[00:16:42] Kendrick Scott: And to me, that’s why I’m here doing this project, getting inside of the dirt. And I feel like that’s the part of this music that It’s hard to describe. It’s hard to describe what it is. You know what I mean? I’m not gonna lie to you. It’s hard for me.

[00:16:57] Eddie Robinson: It really is. I agree. But you can feel it though.

[00:17:01] Kendrick Scott: You can definitely feel it.

[00:17:16] Eddie Robinson: There’s an energy.

[00:17:18] Eddie Robinson: To learn more about Sugar Land 95 and its memorial project, visit Check out I SEE U episode number 46, Sugar Land, Not So Sweet. Visit our show page, i s e e u show. org for that episode.

[00:17:36] Eddie Robinson: Coming up. More of our in studio chat with renowned drummer and composer Kendrick Scott. How did his musical career come to be so intertwined with community activism? From his Houston roots to sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in music today. Plus, he reveals some advice and moments of inspiration that he received from his mentor, seven time Grammy Award winner and two time Academy Award nominee. Terrence Blanchard. I’m Eddie Robinson. I SEE U . Returns in just a moment. We’ll be right back.

[00:18:23] Eddie Robinson: Be sure to subscribe to our podcast. I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

[00:18:43] Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson. We’re spending this hour talking with Kendrick Scott, who you could label as a drummer and composer, but really someone who’s continuing the conversation of music, culture, and politics that’s been going on for decades in Black America, the diverse sounds of Houston still and form his music today, even after living and working in New York City for the last 20 years.

[00:19:13] Eddie Robinson: And you know, Kendrick, you mentioned before that music is born in the soil. And when I think of New York, you know, I know this song is old, but it’s from back in the late 70s. Every time I get off a plane and hit the soil of New York City and run into the subways, for some reason I think of Street Life.

[00:19:35] Eddie Robinson: Vocalists, Randy Crawford and the Crusaders. I think of that song and that energy and that flow, that pulse, that pulsating beat, right?

[00:19:43] Eddie Robinson: I just love, when you mention Joe Sample, I think of all of, you know, the Crusaders, I think of all of that music back in the late 70s, and it was just amazing to me. When people say, Kendrick Scott, describe for our listeners the Kendrick Scott Sound, you know, what is it? What is it that sets you apart from others in this industry?

[00:20:15] Kendrick Scott: I guess for me, I’m a drummer. That’s not really about the drums. That’s that is the vehicle that I drive to get to my destination, but that’s not who I am as a person. Mostly I’m thinking very cinematically in my music. I’m thinking dynamically. I’m thinking emotionally. Before I’m thinking about anything, so as I’m building my art, first of all, I’m thinking about what is the music about more than I’m thinking about the actual notes.

[00:20:47] Kendrick Scott: That’s something that I learned from being around Herbie Hancock is the music is beyond the notes. It’s about you and who you are. You know what I mean? So I try not to hide behind the drums or the notes. I try to use those as the, as the vehicles to get the message out. So if I could describe my music, I would probably just say it’s about that.

[00:21:08] Kendrick Scott: And all of that is filtered through my love for Black American music. All the music that I was brought up with here from the Crusaders to Debussy. Uh, from John Coltrane to, to, to Bob Marley, Toots and the Maytals. You know what I mean? All those different. Sounds that I grew up listening to, I just filtered them through my music, some, some would call that jazz, some would not, and, but it’s just Black American music.

[00:21:40] Eddie Robinson: And then The Oracle, you know, how did that evolve into what we’re experiencing now with Kendrick Scott Oracle?

[00:21:54] Kendrick Scott: That was. Oracle came together under the, again, the inspiration of Terrence Blanchard. You know, one thing that he talked about when he was with Art Blakey, which, um, had to be the most amazing thing was he talked about when you joined our Blakey’s band You didn’t leave his band to be in another person’s band.

[00:22:15] Kendrick Scott: You left his band to become a leader And so when I was with Terrence Blanchard, he said well, you’re not gonna leave my band until you’re ready to become a leader And so when you look at the band that I was in with Terrence Blanchard all of us got signed besides one of us all of us got signed to Blue Note Lionel Loueke, Aaron Parks, Derek Hodge.

[00:22:38] Kendrick Scott: Yes, that’s the three of us and me. We all got signed a Blue Note. And so we’re all artists on our own, uh, doing our own thing now. And he just said, you know what? I know you’re just thinking about being a sideman drummer and you’re loving that traveling the world and doing those things, but you’ve got to think about what is your body of work look like?

[00:23:00] Kendrick Scott: And when you think about the body of work, it’s not all… Uh, something he said recently, he said, it’s not all about what you leave people, you know, physically, that’s not your legacy, but what you leave in people, that’s your legacy. And so I was thinking about that. It’s like, wow. Okay. That’s right. So my body is really deep.

[00:23:20] Kendrick Scott: So the body of work is that, so of course I can make a body of work playing with other people, but for me, that was kind of hiding, you know what I mean? To put yourself out there as an artist to say, okay, I think this is important. I think the Sugar Land 95 and Unearthed is important. That’s kind of scary, right?

[00:23:41] Kendrick Scott: That’s not really mainstream, you know what I mean? It’s not the mainstream thing to do. So I feel like, you know, Terrence was the one that really pushed me to say, you know. You know what? Start. Go ahead and start. You know, I love how Ambrose Akinmusire, uh, we were talking one day, uh, he’s a wonderful trumpeter and artist.

[00:24:02] Kendrick Scott: And we were talking about, uh, there should be a triangle in your, in your music journey. At the top of the triangle, it’s you and your music. On this side, it’s your homies. And on this side, it’s your heroes. So for me, you know, Oracle and my projects and this project going on and then my homies are, you know Gerald Clayton and Walter Smith and Glasper and and Jason Moran and all those people and my heroes are Charles Lloyd and Herbie and you know and Terrence and and those are the Those are the things that I try to make sure I take care of in my life to have that connection to where my career has this, this thread that’s woven through it.

[00:24:43] Kendrick Scott: You know what I mean? Where I can, um, also create my legacy doing my work, but also be connected to the elders and my peers. And then the other connection I have is I teach at Manhattan School of Music and right there close to my home and that’s my connection to the next generation. So. All of those things inform each other and Terrence Blanchard was really major in, in getting me to on the right process to realize that, you know, just sitting back there and playing drums is not the goal, even though it’s fun.

[00:25:17] Kendrick Scott: You know what I mean? It’s like, no, you should be writing music. You should be using your music for good. And that’s, I credit him all the time. I just texted him yesterday. I, um, picked up The Chronicle. And I was in The Chronicle and I couldn’t believe it. And, uh, you know, showed it to my dad and he was, he was really proud.

[00:25:36] Kendrick Scott: Mom was proud. And, uh, if you turn the page, Terrence Blanchard was on the next page. They were talking about him, him bringing his next, uh, opera. It’s called Fire Shut Up In My Bones. It’ll be down here coming up next season for DACAMERA. So please go see that. Yeah, that’s my, that’s my mentor.

[00:25:57] Eddie Robinson: We’ve had jazz musicians on in our, in our shows. And I just, it just really sort of irks me because I feel like jazz should be bigger than what it is now. But I feel like. Jazz has been seen historically to some as this lowbrow cultural art form compared to the sounds of, say, classical music. I can recall graduating from high school and then coming here to Houston, attending Prairie View A& M, mechanical engineering degree.

[00:26:29] Eddie Robinson: But before I went to the engineering building, Kendrick, guess where I went to? The communications building because I wanted my own radio show, but I knew the power of Smooth jazz and what that was being called upon back in the early nineties and it ruled the airwaves, especially here in Houston. What do you think has happened to this sub genre known as smooth jazz and why can’t it experience the same kind of energy as it once did back in the early nineties?

[00:26:57] Kendrick Scott: I mean, I, I don’t like to call it smooth jazz. I just call it Black American music. The music for me is just about exposure. If we put millions of dollars, like we put into Taylor Swift, if we put that into Esperanza Spalding. Then the world would know, right?

[00:27:49] Kendrick Scott: So I feel like that’s exposure that’s why I’m actually teaching about jazz and teaching about our music Because I feel like it’s one of those things if Kanye gets played, I don’t know 10 times a day and Esperanza only gets played once a day or twice a day, you know what I mean? It’s just people more exposed to that.

[00:28:10] Kendrick Scott: And I feel like when you say jazz, people hear a certain sound in their head when actually in actuality, the sound is, uh, more vast than that. If you think about the vastness of, of Sarah Vaughn. And then you think about Samara Joy, now. Or you think about, you know, all the things from the past and the current that are jazz, I feel like, you know, they might have, people don’t see the connection with jazz.

[00:28:44] Kendrick Scott: You know, I feel like, with most of our music, uh, with Black music, I feel like a lot of it starts From the street from where we create something and then it becomes popular So if we look at gospel music and hymns and and work songs you can trace that work songs all the way chase chase it up to the blues trace it up into jazz chase jazz going into hip hop and where we are today and so many things are starting to blossom now I just I feel like jazz is a part of the continuum, but people don’t have the connection of where it is, where it sits, but the music is growing.

[00:29:20] Kendrick Scott: There’s so many young people playing it now and that are killing the game. And so for me, it’s just about exposure.

[00:29:29] Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson. This isI SEE U and we’re chatting in studio with jazz musician, Kendrick Scott. You know, we were talking earlier about the untold histories that are pushed aside and not talked about and ignored for one reason or another.

[00:29:43] Eddie Robinson: But I’m curious if you could share with our audience a narrative or something that’s happened to you, perhaps untold, that you just can’t seem to erase it out of your memory.

[00:29:53] Kendrick Scott: It makes me think of one time when I went to Norway. I was in Oslo and I came in a day early and, uh, I ended up just going out to a club just to check out, um, just the nightlife or whatever.

[00:30:12] Kendrick Scott: Yeah. And, uh, so I walk up to the bar and the bar is packed and, uh, I’m just waiting for the bartender. And this young lady comes by and elbows me in the chest and says, get out of the way. You know what I mean? And I, and I’m just like, okay, so what do I do here? And I said, I really had to contemplate it because it was just blatant racism at that moment.

[00:30:35] Kendrick Scott: And I said, you know what? I’m good. And, um, then the next day when we played, that was on my mind. Honestly, it was in my mind and I was just like. You know, I’ve been to Norway before but I didn’t, I didn’t experience this. I’m like, are all these people thinking about me in that way, like that? And I put that angst into the music.

[00:31:01] Kendrick Scott: And I feel like people felt it. And they came up to me afterwards and were talking about how great the performance was and all of that. And it provided like… Something in me that I was like, okay, well, if I had to think about my ancestors and what they had to deal with, that was nothing that was nothing, you know what I mean?

[00:31:29] Kendrick Scott: And so that, if anything, that just little incident, and I haven’t really thought about that, you brought that out of me. I haven’t thought about that in many, many years. Uh, that gives me so much perspective and respect for, you know, all of my ancestors who have come up and who have, uh, bled and died for this music.

[00:31:49] Kendrick Scott: You know what I mean? For me to be here. to just get elbowed in the chest and to feel like, Oh, that was horrible. It’s like, well, you didn’t get thrown out of the club or couldn’t stay in the same town you were playing in and stuff like, you know what I mean? So, um, so that, that really touched me. Thank you for reminding me of sure.

[00:32:08] Eddie Robinson: Well, I mean, you know, those kinds of incidents you don’t want to, you know, have taken up space, right. Rent in your mind, but, um, again, that’s, you know, we’re, we’re grateful for, you know, your vulnerability there. So I, we appreciate that. You’ve worked with Houston’s own Robert Glasper, as you mentioned, Lionel Loueke, Pat Matheny, um, Diane Reeves, Liz Wright, Gretchen Parlato.

[00:32:36] Eddie Robinson: I absolutely love. You know, the work that you did with the Terrence Blanchard quintet, A Tale of God’s Will, which portions were used in the Spike Lee HBO documentary, When the Levees Broke. You know, I also love the Blue Note All Stars album you recorded and released back in 2017. Of all the tours, And the music venues that you’ve performed in, you know, what would you consider to be your favorite, your favorite tour? And if you will share your most memorable experience with us, as it relates to what it was like being a part of that memorable musical moment.

[00:33:16] Kendrick Scott: Uh, well, my most memorable tour ever was playing with Herbie Hancock. Uh, we did a three month tour and actually I just played with Herbie like maybe five days ago and it was incredible, incredible. Every time, every time I play with him, it’s just crazy. But, um, you know, when you get to meet your heroes, it’s always this thing of, you know, you check them out and you’re like, okay, well.

[00:33:42] Kendrick Scott: Musically, what’s happening here and what’s this in this? And then you realize that’s not what it’s about. It’s about being with the person, seeing how they relate to people, seeing how he’s such a beautiful person to everybody, seeing how he can say no. If he doesn’t want to do something, he says, no, he doesn’t let, he doesn’t let anything fester.

[00:34:04] Kendrick Scott: He’s like, no. And then he moves on to the next thing. And then, you know what I mean? People were handing him CDs. And when they gave him the CDs, I was like, there’s no way he’s, you know, he’s going to listen to any of this. It’s like 20 people came up, listen to my CD, Herbie. Guess what? On the bus, he listened to those CDs.

[00:34:22] Kendrick Scott: And I saw the humility. In one of my heroes where, where it’s like, why, you know, and, uh, and then, you know, from then on, I said, you know, if I meet an a******, there’s some great person who’s an a******. I know that they aren’t as great as they seem to be. And so the, uh, things that I learned most from him. So we were in Vienna, uh, for the first show and the first show I’m kind of tense and I remember on the first song I made a mistake and and I said, Oh shoot. Okay. And then I kind of looked at him. He looked back and he was just like, whatever. And then We played for two and a half hours and at the end of the show, I walked up to him, I said, hurry, you know, excuse me for making that mistake on the first song and he said, you’ve been thinking about that for two hours and 30 minutes, you know, and that taught me, he said, you know what, that was an opportunity.

[00:35:22] Kendrick Scott: And you totally missed the opportunity. So instead of using that as an opportunity, you had that sitting in your mind for two hours and 30 minutes when so much other music was happening. And so, you know, I learned so much from him that, you know, the, the success. It is not in the, the, the failure or the success is what you learn.

[00:35:43] Eddie Robinson: Okay.

[00:35:43] Kendrick Scott: And what you glean.

[00:35:44] Eddie Robinson: Okay.

[00:35:44] Kendrick Scott: Right. Uh, pass or fail, you know what I mean? And I feel like that was a huge moment for me, and I’m happy to happen on the first gig of 44 shows, , you know what I mean? , and, you know, he’s like, that’s an opportunity. And then once I realized that that’s, that’s a lesson that he learned from Miles Davis when he played a chord and.

[00:36:04] Kendrick Scott: Supposedly the chord was wrong, and Miles Davis played something that made his chord right. And so that, to me, goes to, like, my thought process on, um, When I think about life and music, I have this book that I’m writing. It’s going to be called Command and Surrender. And to me, having command of yourself is one thing, you know, but you can’t navigate the world in only just the command and your knowledge, right?

[00:36:31] Kendrick Scott: Your knowledge is. behind you, but the wisdom is how you use that knowledge and how you surrender to the world in front of you. So to me, Herbie is like the embodiment of that, you know what I mean? So that, that was the greatest tour.

[00:36:46] Eddie Robinson: Absolutely. Interesting. And you’re helping me and I’m not even a musician.

[00:36:57] Eddie Robinson: Coming up. We wrap up our conversation with composer, drummer, and Houston’s own Kendrick Scott. He reveals to us how the coronavirus pandemic, the quarantines, the isolation, how all that played a significant role in the recording of his latest release, Corridors. Be sure to check out our social media for more on our guests and to dig deeper into the conversation.

[00:37:24] Eddie Robinson: We’re at I S E E U show on Facebook X and Instagram. I’m Eddie Robinson. I SEE U . Our final segment comes your way right after this.

[00:37:44] Eddie Robinson: If you’re enjoying this program, be sure to subscribe to our podcast. I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

[00:38:18] Eddie Robinson: This is I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson. We’ve been speaking with Kendrick Scott. Composer, drummer, really one of the most sought after musicians in the jazz world. He was telling us before the break about his work with pioneering artists like Terrence Blanchard and Herbie Hancock. Really, there’s too many to list here, but Kendrick!

[00:38:39] Eddie Robinson: I want to ask you, we’ve got the opportunity right here. Who are some of your artists that you’d like to collaborate with? And you’ve never had the opportunity to do so, but you would like to in the near future. And why? Oh,

[00:38:51] Kendrick Scott: I mean, uh, Stevie Wonder.

[00:38:53] Eddie Robinson: Oh. Have you collaborated with Stevie Wonder?

[00:38:57] Kendrick Scott: Never, never. I mean, that’s, to me, he embodies the whole span of Black music. You can hear everything inside his music. That’s, that’s the main person. Milton Nascimento is still with us. I would love to collaborate with him. There’s many, many artists. Let’s see. Uh, Diane Reeves. I definitely want to collaborate with Diane. I hopefully I’m going to make that happen very soon.

[00:39:38] Eddie Robinson: There’s a song that I I always listen to from you called This Song In Me.

[00:39:44] Kendrick Scott: Yeah, Liz, right?

[00:39:45] Eddie Robinson: Liz that’s my favorite Kendrick Scott track of all time.

[00:39:49] Kendrick Scott: All right appreciate it.

[00:39:56] Eddie Robinson: And the words and lyrics to that song are medicinal for me, but let’s get into your new music with Corridors, you know, talk to us about your new project there and what went in your mind in creating this particular project.

[00:40:13] Kendrick Scott: Right. So Corridors was born in 2020, the end of 2020, ’21. And during the pandemic, so as I told you, I moved to New York and I’ve been in the same apartment.

[00:40:25] Kendrick Scott: So Walter and I had another roommate at the beginning, but I’ve been in there for many, many years alone, but it’s a pretty big apartment during the pandemic. It was kind of dank in there. It’s a big apartment. It’s a hundred years old. I’m never there. I’m always traveling. So when I’m home, it’s cool. You know, New York, I love New York actually, but when you don’t get out of New York, sometimes you don’t, yeah, you got to get out of New York.

[00:40:51] Eddie Robinson: Yeah that’s what I was thinking to myself, man, I would not want to be in New York during the pandemic.

[00:40:54] Kendrick Scott: So, yeah. So during the pandemic, I was going through it to be very honest, you know, luckily my therapist kept me going. And, um, One of the things that I was going through at the moment was. The stagnation of, of not being able to travel and share music all around the world. That really, you know, made me kind of go crazy a little bit.

[00:41:19] Kendrick Scott: So, you know, I was commissioned by, uh, the jazz gallery to write some music. And, you know, I had some things in mind before the pandemic, but when the pandemic happened, I had to think about what was taken away from each of us. And I tried to zoom out and say, okay. Wow, this, these, uh, places of transients, uh, that we’re used to, you know, me getting on a plane and going here and going all there, um, that was stagnated. So when I looked when you walk in my in my apartment, it’s this big, long hallway and it’s this long corridor and all of the, uh, all of the places are to the right. It’s like a railroad car. And so I was thinking about the relationship everybody had to their own. House, how people’s garages had been turned into the gym, how people’s kids room was now the schoolhouse and how the living room was the church.

[00:42:16] Kendrick Scott: You know what I mean? Like just thinking about everybody’s relationship to their home and now. Those places of transience now were the place, you know what I mean? And so, when I was thinking about, um, things being taken away, I thought about what I loved most. And of course travel and playing music. And what I love most in my Oracle group are like piano and guitar.

[00:42:39] Kendrick Scott: Harmony and sounds like that. So I said, you know what? I’m going to take that away out of my music. And so if you know me, you know, that’s kind of major. Cause I love that. So, yes. So once I took those two things away, then it left the saxophone and the bass, and I’d never done a trio project before. So. And what happened with that is it created a whole different space of, uh, a lonely space for the music, but it also, uh, created, uh, this, uh, it’s like walking in the IMAX theater and you sit there with no glasses on.

[00:43:17] Kendrick Scott: And you’re just like, okay, what’s happening? And then you put the glasses on and everything comes to the front. And I feel like when that happens, you can hear, you can go, uh, you can hear Woodward Rogers bass come to the front. And you can hear all the small details of what he does. And you can hear what Walter does.

[00:43:33] Kendrick Scott: And you can hear what the drums do. You know what I mean? Uh, underneath it all. So I feel like, uh, you know, that representation of what has been taken away from us. And, um, For me, the shadows that I was kind of running from, running all around the world, I had to kind of face them while I was at my home.

[00:43:53] Kendrick Scott: You know what I mean? And I’m sure everybody else had to. So, yeah, that’s what Corridors is about.

[00:44:15] Eddie Robinson: Mhm. One Door Closes, Another Opens. Is that a good track that because I know I like it. But what do you think about that track.

[00:44:23] Kendrick Scott: And yeah, for me, it’s that is a dedication to all the people that were lost and the people that were born during the pandemic. And uh, that that moment of the beginning and the end, which there is none, right? It’s just a continuum.

[00:45:10] Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson and we’re speaking with renowned musician Kendrick Scott. I know for me, there’s a spiritual contemporary soul jazz component associated with your music that I find extremely meditative, but yet very powerful. And I love listening to your music because especially in traveling, I have to have your music on when I’m traveling and there’s this intoxicating melody that you’re always bringing into the foray with any of your material view from above my favorite from the source. I Have A Dream, the Herbie Hancock cover, um, that was from your Conviction album. But again, like my favorite, this song in me with Liz, right? Those words and the lyrics to that song are just truly spectacular.

[00:46:02] Eddie Robinson: And so I thank you personally for your work and your material and what you’ve done for the industry in and of itself in creating some incredible, melodic, beautiful, powerful material.

[00:46:14] Kendrick Scott: Thank you for that. Thank you.

[00:46:17] Eddie Robinson: Our question, we always ask this question to our guests, and this is the very last question that we ask and want you to be as completely open and honest of all the accomplishments. The challenges, the joys you faced and endured throughout this crazy music industry. What lessons have you learned about yourself thus far?

[00:46:39] Kendrick Scott: Um, probably the lesson about command and surrender. I mean, to me, I think the more I Learn more about history. That’s why I’m here doing this unearthed project. Uh, the more I can look forward with, with the lens that’s cleaned off, so to speak.

[00:46:58] Kendrick Scott: I think about, uh, how am I, uh, clearing my, my lenses to view the world. Uh, it’s, it’s cloudy. And every time that I get up to learn something, and I learn something new every day, and I, uh, You know, I say this prayer, it’s the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, and if people get a chance to read that, and the first line it says, Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

[00:47:30] Kendrick Scott: Um, I could say the whole thing, you know, uh, where there’s hatred, let us sow love. Where there’s doubt, let us sow faith. Where there’s sadness, let us sow joy, and where there’s darkness, let us sow light. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled, but to console others. Grant that we may not so much seek to be understood, but to understand.

[00:47:51] Kendrick Scott: Grant that we may not so much seek to be loved, but to love others. Because it’s in giving that we receive. And so the more that I think and meditate on that, I grow every day. You know, am I being an instrument of peace where I’m at? You know what I mean? So everything that I’m doing in my life, I’m trying to wash away the dust on the path where I’m supposed to be going.

[00:48:15] Kendrick Scott: You know what I mean? And, and in the vision that I’m supposed to be, uh. Uh, walking in, you know, for me, that’s God’s vision, right? That he has for me that’s already there. I just have to blow the sand away to see it and wipe the lens, you know? So if there’s anything that I’ve learned is just, uh, just, you know, follow your heart.

[00:48:36] Kendrick Scott: Uh, find, uh, what really means something for you. With from within and um, not following, not comparing, not doing anything, you know, just digging deep and, and that has really, uh, Help me.

[00:48:55] Eddie Robinson: I know we would love, I speak for myself. I would love to hear more film slash orchestral composing on that note.

[00:49:06] Kendrick Scott: Yeah.

[00:49:07] Eddie Robinson: Ending on that question, will we see more of that from you? I love that Terrence Blanchard challenge, but I think it really speaks volumes. Especially when I hear a lot of your Oracle music from back in the day. I mean, it just seems like it’s a tapestry. I mean, you can hear it from the start to the very end, and it’s all connected.

[00:49:29] Eddie Robinson: A film project or something that relates to orchestra, orchestral strings. I mean, that would be phenomenal. I mean, it’s out if I heard it from you,

[00:49:39] Kendrick Scott: it’s a dream of mine.

[00:49:40] Eddie Robinson: Something that we can look forward to from you.

[00:49:42] Kendrick Scott: Yeah. And, and, you know, I keep talking about him cause he means that much to me, Terrence Blanchard. So I, I just went to the opening of his first opera, which is called Champion. It’s now playing at the New York Met. Terrence was the first African American composer. To have his music played at the Met in New York. So if you think about that, that was Three years ago. You know what I mean? It’s like if you really think about that way, it’s crazy.

[00:50:09] Kendrick Scott: It’s really fascinating. So, uh, yeah I don’t know three weeks ago. I went and that really opened me up because even Terrence was like man, I wasn’t trying to do no opera You know what I mean? And so I I was with Terrence for 11 years and within that time he did Broadway. He did films. He did the opera. He did, you know what I mean?

[00:50:31] Kendrick Scott: It’s like he did so many things and so, you know, he, he, he said, you need to try everything, you know, you need to go ahead and try everything. So I feel like something like that is coming. I definitely wanted to write a concerto for drum set with orchestra and That’s a dream of mine one day, but, um, right now I’m about six projects in that I have in my head, so I’m just gotta do those and then see what, what the next one, what the next one is, but I appreciate that, uh, that, uh, reminder.

[00:51:06] Eddie Robinson: You’re remarkable. The award winning Kendrick Scott. Thank you so much for being a guest on I SEE U.

[00:51:12] Kendrick Scott: Thanks for having me.

[00:51:17] Eddie Robinson: Our team includes Technical Director Todd Huslander, Producers Laura Walker and Mincho Jacob. Special thanks this week to DECAMERA and Shannon Smith. Along with Ryan Edwards for engineering the recording of Unearthed. I SEE U is a production of Houston Public Media. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and X.

[00:51:41] Eddie Robinson: Usernames at I SEE U Show. Subscribe to our podcast wherever you listen and download your favorite shows. I’m your host and executive producer, Eddie Robinson. And I feel you.

[00:51:55] Eddie Robinson: We hear you. I SEE U. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time.


This article is part of the podcast I SEE U with Eddie Robinson

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Eddie Robinson

Eddie Robinson

Executive Producer & Host, I SEE U

A native of Mississippi, Eddie started his radio career as a 10th grader, working as a music jock for a 100,000-Watt (Pop) FM station and a Country AM station simultaneously. While Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus had nominated him for the U.S. Naval Academy in 1991, Eddie had an extreme passion...

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