Christian aTunde AdjuahChristian Scott aTunde Adjuah
An intrepid explorer, Scott ups the ante on his double album Christian aTunde Adjuah, continuing to delve into uncharted jazz territory. Scott’s band consists of guitarist Matthew Stevens, drummer Jamire Williams, bassist Kris Funn and pianist Lawrence Fields (whose piano sound is often spiced for effect by using paper on the instrument’s strings). Scott also recruited guests tenor saxophonist Kenneth Whalum III, alto saxophonist Louis Fouche IIII, and trombonist Corey King.
Christian aTunde Adjuah is arguably the most personal project to date for the young artist, reflected in the album title, Christian aTunde Adjuah– the artist’s new name, and the album cover — a photo of the Scott in the traditional attire of his culture the Black Indians of New Orleans.
Scott says, “The album cover is a self-portrait, a two-tiered depiction of me in the ceremonial regalia of the Afro-Native American Culture of New Orleans– colloquially known as Black Indians or Mardi Gras Indians. The photo represents the same general idea that the record does. It’s about the willingness to forge new paths and to seek new terrain while excavating one’s own past as a means of gaining a better contextual understanding of that path.” Scott explains, “The cover. The album. Everything represents the completion of my name. I am Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. The addition of the names aTunde and Adjuah comes from two cities in the West African nation of Benin, which is present day Ghana. It’s just a way for me to tell the world that I accept all of my past and am willing to explore it. So in a sense, I haven’t changed my name. I’ve completed it to reflect another part of my ancestry and lineage– the part before Scott.”
Christian aTunde Adjuah opens with “Fatima Aisha Rokero 400,” where the trumpeter boldly soars over Stevens’ guitar and eerie muses. The song is about the ethnic cleansing, kidnapping and more specifically the rape of 400 indigenous African Sudanese women by Janjaweed soldiers in the town of Rokero. “New New Orleans (King Adjuah Stomp),” a rhythmic bouncer about the resilience of post-Katrina New Orleans. Also included on the first disc is the light, quiet, muted-trumpet of “Who They Wish I Was” about how people have equated his band with the classic Miles Davis Quintet of the ’60s; the pounding “Pyrrhic Victory of aTunde Adjuah” about the negative reactions of people to Scott’s name completion; as well as “Kiel,” a reflective musical portrait of Christian’s twin brother, director of the critically-acclaimed, award winning short The Roe Effect. Also included is the rhythmically skittering, celebratory “Spy Boy Flag Boy,” about the Scott brother’s New Orleans-based Black Indian lineage and their roles in their grandfather Big Chief Donald Harrison Sr.’s tribe.
The second disc opens with the catchy melody, guitar-growled, hopeful “The Berlin Patient (CCR5)” about the AIDS patient from San Francisco who was cured via an experimental treatment in Berlin; the snappy-drum patterned “When Marissa Stands Her Ground” (formerly titled “Trayvon”) that addresses the recent killing in Florida of an innocent black teen; the melodic tune “Liar Liar” about the deception-filled end of a relationship; and the ballad “I Do” that Scott wrote to celebrate his engagement.
Scott ends the album with the romantic beauty “Cara,” a song named after the musician’s mother. Scott’s breathy trumpet lines over Fields’ rich piano comping. Scott says, “There’s no better way to end the album because it’s a song for my mother who sacrificed everything for Kiel and me.”
A tour de force masterwork, Christian aTunde Adjuah opens a wide window on Scott’s present—as well as his past (especially in reaction to the jazz trads complaining about his breaking free from the jazz standard) and his auspicious creative future. In his liners, Scott writes that the listener will hear on the album “a stretching of jazz, not a replacement. That is what I hope younger people will be able to take away from it as well—the idea that innovation should never be regarded as a problem in artistic practice, that one should always be aware of what has come before, and finally, that criticisms shouldn’t evoke paralysis, [but] should inspire action.”