Jazz is here to stay, according to Christian Scott.
Jazz is here to stay, according to Christian Scott.

Christian Scott on Being an HBO Character and Occasionally Bleeding Onstage

"My mouth is ripped up after each set. My dentist doesn't like it," the 32-year-old says. But a bit of blood won't stop him. "With the trumpet, you can't take two days off because that feels like a month. When I'm not on the road, I put in three to seven hours a day on it."

Christian Scott was born and raised in that nexus of jazz, New Orleans. He fell in love with the city's music immediately. It also helped that his uncle was the alto sax player Donald Harrison Jr. "I wanted to be just like him, but if I played his instrument, I couldn't be in a band with him. So I picked something close to the alto sax — the trumpet."

After he graduated from Berklee College of Music, the next step in his life became a made-for-TV event — literally. A character on the HBO showTreme was partly based on Scott when he was trying to make a name for himself in New Orleans. "David Simon [the creator of Treme and The Wire] had a relationship with my uncle. The setting where he wrote the show was in New Orleans right after Katrina. He made a character [Delmond Lambreaux] who was building his career and was torn between staying in New Orleans and moving to New York. He was a hybrid character between me and my uncle. Then his father's character was a hybrid between my uncle and grandfather."

Scott made some guest musical appearances on the show and found the experience surreal. "Watching it was weird. The actors came to our gigs and trailed us. They got everything down, from the way I rub my finger to my clothes to my warmups."

Scott seemed grateful for the attention Treme gave him and jazz music, but he denies the idea that jazz is a dying art form. "If that were true, I wouldn't be able to make a living out of it. There wouldn't be a jazz festival in every city."

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He has a theory on why it's mostly older crowds at those jazz festivals. "There was a neo-classical movement in the '80s that said all players had to be of a certain pedigree. Jazz became a very academic form that was focused on the past. It's hard to get a new generation into the music if it is focused on their grandparent's generation."

Scott is looking to change that though. He tries to impose hip-hop and world music influences into his newest album, Stretch Music. "I was looking for a gateway sound for people that aren't avid jazz listeners."

Because of that, the crowd at the North Beach Bandshell on Saturday will be an eclectic one. He's hopeful new listeners will show up and confident he can convert them into jazz lovers. "I play intensely, and I try to leave it all on the stage."

Sometimes, that includes his blood.

Christian Scott with Hailu Mergia. 7 p.m. Saturday, January 23, at North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-672-5202; northbeachbandshell.com. Tickets cost $25 plus fees via eventbrite.com.

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