|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
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Keeping jazz alive
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Keeping jazz alive
By Stephen Libin
"Jazz is one of those things that people feel has to be enshrined somehow. They think that it's very high minded and a learned art form. But I don't think of jazz as inaccessible at all."
Andrew Scott, a Toronto native and principal guitarist and songwriter for One Step Beyond, knows what he's talking about when it comes to music. Scott, who discovered his love for jazz guitar while attending Ottawa's Carleton University, is currently a musicology PhD candidate at York.
Raised on the sounds of Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock, Scott picked up the guitar during high school, but it wasn't until his time in university that he ventured away from typical folk and rock styles.
"I guess I came into jazz a little late in the game. It wasn't until my 20s that I began playing decent jazz."
Scott was influenced by many of the great jazz musicians, including George Benson and Canadian Sonny Greenwich. "Sonny is a wonderful guy," Scott says. "He certainly is one of my musical heroes and I'm happy to say now that he is also a friend. He's played with everybody. You could say that he was really a pioneer of jazz guitar in this country."
Likened in style to the legendary guitarist Benson, this inspiration is clearly evident in Scott's compositions and guitar style. "Benson is an influence in a couple of ways. Certainly composition-wise, I respect what he has done a lot, but almost more importantly, he's an unbelievable guitar player. If he had never composed a note of music in his life, he would still be a legend as far as I'm concerned because of his contributions to the instrument."
One Step Beyond, Scott's primary musical group, has been around for six years and have released four records. They got their biggest exposure so far from organist Merl Saunders, who has played with both the Grateful Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band.
"We were opening for him on a tour and he liked the band, and so whenever he was playing the East Coast of Canada or the United States, he would use us as his backing band instead of bringing his from California."
The culmination of this partnership was released in 2000 in the form of Struggling Man, a live album featuring Saunders and One Step Beyond.
Sparked by the Ken Burns' documentary, Scott feels general interest in jazz is on the rise. "It has stirred up a lot of controversy. What I think is the most interesting is that there actually is this discussion. To me that means that, hey, somebody cares, somebody is listening. If there's controversy, it means that people are paying attention, and what could be better than that?"
Scott is hoping to capitalize on this recent resurgence, as he appears at the Grad Club tonight with the other three members of the Andy Scott Quartet.
"[Tonight's show] will cross a number of borders stylistically. We'll be playing some standards, to some be-bop, and a few ballads. At the same time, I hope that we'll get the chance to play some funk and some blues I think I'll need the vibe of the room, but if the audience is into it, maybe we can play some more original music."
Having spanned nearly every genre of guitar in his playing, Scott says he always comes back to jazz for one simple reason: "Jazz music is fun!"