Best known for his long-standing role in Sun Ra Arkestra, saxophonist, composer, vocalist and performer Knoel Scott is a jazz legend in his own right. A celebration of his tight knit relationship with Arkestra leader Marshall Allen, Celestial marks Scott’s first major studio release after more than 40 years at the vanguard of modern jazz.
Building on a career that has seen Scott record and perform alongside jazz greats such as Sun Ra, Charles Earland, Lou Donaldson and Leon Thomas, the 5-track album is steeped in the composition and performance styles of the African American jazz tradition, from blues and be-bop to the cosmic avant-garde.
Recorded in mono direct to tape and cut on a Scully lathe at the all- analogue Artone Studios in the Netherlands, Celestial brings together an inter-generational ensemble including bright sparks of the UK jazz scene, Charlie Stacey and Mikele Montolli, alongside Arkestra alumnus Chris Henderson. For Scott and Allen, it represents the culmination of decades of collaboration. The album begins in explosive style with the hard grooving ‘Les Funambules’, a prime example of Scott’s ability to walk a tightrope between hard bop form and raw improvisation.
The session then orbits around Scott’s composition ‘Celestial’, an interstellar 12-minute space walk that was originally written for the Sun Ra Arkestra with strings but was never recorded.
Featuring Marshall Allen on the otherworldly EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument), ‘Celestial’ also hears Scott in full voice, reciting lyrics written by Arkestra vocalist and lyricist Arnold “Art” Jenkins. “The song is a testimony and a memorial to Art and his artistry, as much as it is an example of my own,” Scott explains.
Following the collaborative spirit of the album, Scott’s composition ‘Makanda’ pays tribute to educator and mentor Dr.Ken ‘Makanda’ McIntyre, an associate of Eric Dolphy and a formative influence in Scott’s musical life. A homage to the way McIntyre incorporated various idioms of African American music into his compositions, ‘Makanda’ blends funk, Afro-Cuban and swing styles into a powerful and coherent whole.
Alongside Knoel’s original recordings, the session features two improvised tracks led by Marshall Allen, which speak to the deep musical friendship between the two. Scott describes ‘Conversation with the Cosmos’ & ‘Blue Blues’ as “a testimony to Marshall's incredible improvisational contribution, and his ability to read and conjure all kinds of music and bring the best out of musicians.”
His first studio recording under his own name, Celestial is a statement of intent from Scott as a composer and bandleader, and a testament to his rich and lasting relationship with Marshall Allen.
A1 - Les Funambules
A2 - Celestial
B1 - Conversation With The Cosmos
B2 - Makanda
B3 - Blu Blues