Kendrick Scott’s Unearthed (2023)

World premiere: May 12, 2023
Cullen Theater, Wortham Theater Center

A new DACAMERA production memorializing the Sugar Land 95, bringing together original music, poetry and visuals Unearthed pays tribute to the tragic history behind the recent discovery of the remains of 95 Black people in unmarked graves in Sugar Land, Texas. They were convict laborers, swept back into “slavery by another name” in the post-Civil War era, arrested for petty crimes like vagrancy and forced into back-breaking and often fatal labor in the sugar fields of Texas. Houston native jazz artist Kendrick Scott explores this untold story, teaming up with outstanding Houston-based creative team including the former Houston poet laureate Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton and performed by the acclaimed Harlem String Quartet and a trio of first-call jazz musicians.

Kendrick Scott, composer/drums
Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, poet
Robert Hodge, visual artist
Erin Earle Fleming, lighting design

Gerald Clayton, piano; Walter Smith III, saxophone; Joe Sanders, bass; Harlem Quartet (Ilmar Gavilán, violin; Melissa White, violin; Jaime Amador, viola; Felix Umansky, cello)

Scott has made a work of searing emotional power and elegant musical flow. He was mentored by Terence Blanchard, and I hear a similar clarity of purpose in Scott’s writing for rhythm section and string quartet. (The string arranger on the project, Alex Brown, did a fine job of implementing his ideas.) There’s sometimes a tendency to lean toward abstraction when working with charged material such as this, but Scott is an Inside Man, and a gifted melodist besides. He knows his strengths.” — Nate Chinen