Monday, June 08, 2020

Somerville's David Thorne Scott: Brings a Modern Edge to the Great American Songbook

David Thorne Scott

I spoke with Somerville’s David Thorne Scott about his music and his life as an artist.

Here is a bio that Scott sent me:

“David Thorne Scott is an entertainer whose beautiful voice and creativity have thrilled audiences in venues large and small. 

His passion for bringing a modern edge to the classics of the Great American Songbook, as well as his original songs, earned his album "
" a "Top 5 CD of the Year" by the Jazz Education Journal. Cadence Magazine said "he phrases like a saxophone player and is as slippery and hip as the young Mel Tormé." Herb Wong, one of the west coast's leading jazz experts, wrote “I haven’t been this moved by a performance of ‘For All We Know’ since Carmen McRae.”David has sung with the Boston Pops, the Capital Jazz Orchestra, the New England Wind Symphony, and the Melrose Symphony, the Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra and the Thinkin' Big Band.”

 Doug Holder: What is your connection to Somerville?

 David Thorne Scott: I have lived in Somerville for over 20 years in the Union Square area. I am a newly elected member of the Union Square Neighborhood Council.

DH: What makes this city unique?

DTS: When I volunteered with the Somerville Arts Council as a panelist for the grant program I got to see the amazing range of musicians doing exciting work. Jazz venues in the area are suffering because of gentrification. We lost Johnny D’s, Ryles, Third Life Studio, and 186 Outpost in quick succession. The EMF building and Jamspot are gone too. However, there are still great places near me hosting certain types of music.

 DH: What are you working on now?

 DTS: Since COVID I've been mixing and editing my new album, “Thornewood”. Thank god I got all the recording and overdubs finished before the lockdown! I recorded the album partly at Q Division in Somerville.

 The "Thornewood” album mixes and matches elements of jazz and Americana: Cole Porter and Harold Arlen right next to John Denver and Townes Van Zandt. Both bebop trumpet and lap steel guitar. Even a little scat singing and Jordanaires-inspired background vocals.

Special guests on the album:
Grammy-award winning singer Paula Cole
Peter Eldridge, internationally-renowned jazz singer and member of New York Voices
Trumpeter Jason Palmer, one of the most in-demand musicians of his generation
Saxophonist Walter Smith III, whose new album features Christian McBride and Joshua Redman
Violinist Sara Caswell, a 2018 Grammy nominee
Bluesy R&B powerhouse Thaddeus Hogarth on harmonica

The rhythm section is:
Kevin Barry on guitars (tours with Rosanne Cash, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Ray Lamontagne)
Mark Shilansky on piano (has performed with Luciana Souza and Kim Nazarian)
Marty Ballou on basses (tours with Peter Wolf and Duke Robillard)
Austin McMahon on drums (performs with Jerry Bergonzi, Kate McGarry).

DH: What projects do you envision for the future?

DTS: My summer/fall composition project is an attempt to my varied musical skills – a cappella singing, piano, electric bass, trumpet, melodica, vocal improvisation, whistling, beat boxing, body percussion, and digital looper – into a focused artistic statement. I will be writing songs for  solo a cappella performance, songs to be self-accompanied on electric bass, songs to be self-accompanied on piano and synthesizer, and songs employing multiple instruments with digital looper.

 DH: Is your work now influenced by the virus?

 DTS: My COVID-era performance projects are on YouTube
...and a congratulatory video for my Berklee students
A few other remote collaborations, including jazz and classical singing, are in the works.

DH: Do you think it will be in the future?

DTS: I’m sure that things will be different, but I hope we can get back to gathering for musical experiences together. Luckily my composing project, which I’ve been planning since November of last year, is a solitary pursuit and doesn’t require in-person collaboration.

DH: It is hard to make a living as an artist-- period, how has this situation affected you? 

DTS: I am a professor in the voice department at Berklee college of music. We had to start teaching remotely at spring break, which has been a challenge, but I'm grateful that I still have a job when so many are out of work. My virtual lessons and classes are with students in Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Puerto Rico, Turkey, Georgia (both the country and the state), and China. I'm the executive VP of the Berklee Faculty Union, which is fighting hard for job security for our faculty.

My performing gigs were all cancelled. These included out-of-town shows with my band the Vintage Vocal Quartet, as well as my local residency playing piano and singing jazz standards at the Avery Bar at the Ritz-Carlton. In March I was literally on the way to the rental car place in Assembly Row to get a vehicle for a tour to Pennsylvania when everything stopped.

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