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Judge for Ryan Scott

New York, NY
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Portrait of Ryan Scott
Raised around the Bay Area and Central Coast of California, Scott’s introduction to music began with his discovery of a nylon-string guitar given to his mom as a child. Delving into the likes of Leo Kottke, Eric Clapton and Doc Watson as a youth, Scott’s early teens brought him an electric guitar and the joys of Van Halen, Metallica and Nirvana — and the Blues, which became his sole focus for several years. Forming his first band at 12 (and soon gigging at local bars in the Monterey area), he played from the songbook of Freddie King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and other greats. But the Blues led him in many other directions, from the exploration of jamband giants like the Allman Brothers Band, to funk and jazz, and ultimately, to two of his greatest inspirations: the avant guitarists John Scofield and Bill Frisell.

By 1999, Scott’s prodigious guitar skills had taken him to the Monterey Jazz Festival and to numerous festivals in Europe and Japan. In 2001, the then-eighteen-year-old moved to New York. “I knew about one and a half people, but I started meeting like-minded players within about a week.” He sat in all over town, often skateboarding across town from jam session to jam session (a particularly difficult feat with a guitar on your back). Scott soon crossed paths with personal heroes like guitarist Peter Bernstein, as well as other East Coast musicians that he admired while still in Northern California. “I was a huge fan of Chris Cheek while I was in high school, and now he's on this record. I feel very lucky to have met so many amazing musicians here. I've managed to put together my dream band."

While entrenching himself in the jazz world – in addition to Scofield and Frisell, he considers Bruce Forman a significant influence and cites Jim Hall, Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt as additional inspirations -- Ryan began to sing again, something he had abandoned along with his teen Blues band. After scoring a regular gig at the Anyway Café in the Lower East Side, his voice and songs coalesced. Blending his vocal influences, which ranged from Elliott Smith to Randy Newman to Marvin Gaye, Scott began writing songs that owed something to jazz, R & B, 70s rock, and singer/songwriter records, but didn’t borrow directly from any of them. “I tried not to write with any genre in mind,” he says. “But I did try to combine interesting, jazz harmonies and chord changes with a more of a pop thing, something where the musicianship came through -- a pop record with dudes that can really play.”

Bringing this goal to life are a cast of friends/peers/neighbors, all of whom Scott met playing jazz in New York: cellist Christopher Hoffman, organist/pianist/keyboardist Ben Stivers, percussionist Matt Kilmer and drummer Bill Campbell, bassist Matt Pavolka, violinist/vocalist Christina Courtin, and aforementioned saxophonist Chris Cheek.