Drummer and composer Kendrick Scott kicked off his Blue Note contract four years ago with We Are the Drum. Expertly produced by Derrick Hodge, Scott’s creative confidant and musical brother, and featuring a stunning guest performance by vocalist Lizz Wright, it earned rave reviews and reiterated how Oracle, Scott’s long-running working group, is one of the most thoughtfully powerful jazz bands of its generation.
When it came time to follow this success up with a new effort, however, Scott felt stuck. Nothing he wrote or played seemed good enough; self-doubt had formed a blockade where inspiration once flowed. But, as Scott points out today, “Wayne Shorter says there’s always something unfolding on the other side of the negative.” Hodge, who’d signed on again as Scott’s producer, witnessed what the drummer was putting himself through and had a similar realization. For years Hodge has been dedicated to shaping Oracle’s sonic identity, even relinquishing his role as the band’s bassist to work behind the scenes. Scott calls him “the sixth member of Oracle.”
“Derrick said, ‘We need to tap into your fears and insecurities and make some art about them,’” Scott recalls. “That was amazing to me—that he got me out of my own head.” Scott gathered up the compositions he’d been working on—both finished and unfinished—and headed into the studio, where “Derrick and the band helped me unfold them, and they became the record that you hear.”