Pianist Dred Scott uses an irreverent veneer to disguise old-fashioned jazz scholarship, which buttresses his rich, well-rounded intonation and flair for phrasing. Thus, a song entitled “That Lick I Invented” betrays a deep appreciation for the vintage bop thrill-rides of Bud Powell, and the thunderous block chords in “Mojo Rhythm (Son of Yaah!)” are an impressive nod in the direction of McCoy Tyner with or without the chanted obscenities that occur halfway through.
But Scott — who founded the now defunct hip-hop-jazz outfit Alphabet Soup, has played with everyone from Anthony Braxton to Charlie Hunter, and has fronted this trio with bassist Ben Rubin and drummer Tony Mason through many years and countless Tuesday nights at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York — is hardly a retro stylist either. His antic nature precludes sustained narratives and turns many of his songs into impressionistic collections of sectionalized, kindred phrases. (A notable exception is the short, heaving ballad, “Press Play,” nicely coupled with the also quieter “Schneidleweiss.”) In that sense, his lone cover here — Miles Davis’s sprightly classic “Seven Steps To Heaven,” which closes the disc — is a shrewd choice that enables Scott to proceed with his giddy hop-scotching without impugning the song’s integrity.
If you are searching for the more experimental side of Dred Scott, check out Prepared Piano, his solo attack on a strangely tuned instrument in disrepair, released the same day as Nowhere. And if you want to hear more fully developed interactions with his trio, consider Live At Rockwood Hall. But to get the best taste of Dred Scott the pianist — with his ingenious and gleeful forays shaded by neo-bop conservatism — Nowhere is the best place to go.