Graham Reid | | 2 min read
You don't need to know anything about Tom Scott's life because in the compelling seven minute opening track Years Gone By here as he emerges under another imprimatur, he sketches in his autobiography.
It is of moving from the UK as child, growing up in Avondale, getting a job, his jazz-bassist dad Peter getting leaving then getting busted and doing time, a friend dying, hitting headlines (with Home Brew and @peace), going to Australia . . . and now watching his young son (Quincy, the subject of Quincy's March and a presence throughout) as the family settles back into Avondale where he grew up.
Not so much a full circle as an interesting spiral of life where the current location is on the same latitude as the starting point, but much further out.
What separates this hip-hop album from most others is an acute understanding of how jazz can work as both a substrata and a melodic palette to work off. It is notably of the emotionally engaged and edgy Coltrane/Eric Dolphy/ kind when required, although the epic multi-part Water Medley turns every lower for a downtempo mood piece and a sonic landscape in places. And echoes of Gil Scott-Heron's off-sider Brian Jackson seep through also*.
Old Dogs which follows Water Melody is equally dialed back to allow the reflective narrative space to engage in a more intimate way.
As with Kings' Don't Worry About It, there is a kind of nostalgic reflection in many places on more innocent and enjoyable times – sometimes getting stoned with friends – alongside the stark realities of the life he confronted when an unapologetic lightning rod for political controversy (in a nation where musicians largely avoid comment in song) and being the angry young rap rebel.
He may bemoan all he's got is Pocket Lint and there's “no Plan B” but what he has now – as he says frequently – is that he's found something more important: family, home and the maturity required to be a thirtysomething father and not an oversized puppy full of energy and no direction.
Even though, like most people of his age, he can't afford a house in the overpriced city he has returned to. Although he still can say “I love the city where I'm from” on the immediately engaging Home, another seven minute-plus autobiographical standout.
His delivery can still be bratty and witty as much as blunt, slightly self-lacerating and observant (as on F(R)iends), but song titles like Years Gone By, Home and Tea Break (the latter an avant-jazz instrumental) point more to where he's at.
He's the man “who ain't the same dude I was” and some from back then are “just some strangers that I used to love, nothing more left to discuss”.
Becoming an adult and a parent might seem like the end of energetic creativity for some artists, but Tom Scott finds it an avenue for reflection, consideration . . . and even reinvigoration?
It will be interesting to see where he goes after this emotional recalibration and clearing house.