Photo by Todd Cooper, courtesy of the artist.
Lockdowns. Quarantines. Social Distancing. In no small part, the stress, exhaustion, and sadness of the COVID-19 pandemic many have felt has come from an at least partial breakdown of community. In an effort to protect themselves from illness, often people have focused inward instead of upon things they still share in common with others.
With Corridors, Kendrick Scott’s Fellowship Commission for The Jazz Gallery, the drummer emphasizes the commonalities between people. The idea is that while we each live our own separate lives, they are each connected along a shared path. One uniting element, arguably, is the importance of mentorship. With this in mind, we asked Scott about not only the general concept of Corridors but also some of his mentors—his mother, Joe Sample, Terence Blanchard, Charles Lloyd—he has thus far encountered in the hallway of his career.
The Jazz Gallery: What is the concept behind Corridors?
Kendrick Scott: With Corridors, I am trying to focus on the joining elements in our lives. I named it Corridors because if you visit my apartment building in New York, all of the apartments are connected by a long corridor. People have their own lives but we also each share some elements which unite us.
TJG: What sorts of elements?
KS: Well, I think about culture. I think about faith. Many different things join us from our little rooms that we stay in. The pandemic kept many of us in those rooms for a year and a half and, in many ways, cut off from those common joining elements.
In essence, I am trying to pull on common feelings. Some of the pieces for the commission use titles like “One Door Closes and Another Opens” or “Welcoming the Unwelcome.” I am trying to focus on the good points of what this pandemic means in terms of what we have learned about ourselves.
TJG: In some ways that is aligned with the concept behind A Wall Becomes a Bridge (Blue Note, 2019) in the sense of turning something negative and divisive into something positive and unifying.
KS: Yeah, yeah. I am definitely an optimist. As Wayne Shorter once said, “there’s always something good unfolding underneath everything bad.” There’s always something unfolding on the other side. I think as long as we can keep the optimism, we can achieve a certain level of peace.
Honestly, though, I fight with myself on that all the time. Often, I make music as a somewhat selfish thing, basically using it to talk about things I am dealing with in my personal life. So, in many ways “A Wall Becomes a Bridge” is a mantra I have to keep saying in my life to keep my own sanity [laughing]. When something is going wrong in my life and my anxiety is getting to me, I have to say, “You know what? A wall becomes a bridge.” It’s going to be cool. Things will improve. It is about seeing the other side while you are inside of it. It’s hard to do. With Corridors, I am hoping to create a dialogue about the things that all of us have had to deal with from the pandemic.
TJG: Taking an optimistic view, do you feel like there is some good that may have come out of the shutdowns in terms of music-making?
KS: Yes, I think in some ways the pandemic has given people, including musicians, an opportunity to essentially meet their own shadow. A chance to sit down and think.
I’ve been on the road my whole career. My shadow’s been following me like “come on man, let’s deal with this or deal with that.” But when I’m on the road, I’m so busy working that it sometimes causes me to neglect myself a little bit. I think the good thing that will come out of the pandemic is that we are given time to meet our shadow and actually converse with it. I think those conversations and thoughts will get us to a deeper level of knowing ourselves.
Hopefully, that deeper understanding of yourself will lead artists to create more art that embodies their true selves and not the self that is running around like a chicken with their head cut off; just doing things to stay active instead of tapping into the true essence of who they are as a human being.
I’ve found that during the pandemic I’ve been very hesitant about being around people. That’s been crazy to me. Living in a city like New York, you are surrounded by people and it is the people that make New York so beautiful. I am here because it lets me around all of these people. I find that as much as I travel the world and see people from different cultures, I see those same cultures right here in the city. I learn so much about myself and others myself that way. So, to be in New York and made to have a standoffish kind of vibe because of the pandemic has really shown me how much I love being around people and learning about people.