Christian Scott: Christian aTunde Adjuah

After experiencing a period of great self-reflection and growth as a person and artist, Christian Scott returns with three-fourths of Yesterday You Said Tomorrow's backing quartet for a 2xCD affair.

Christian Scott

Christian aTunde Adjuah

Label: Concord
US Release Date: 2012-07-31
UK Release Date: Import

Despite being one of the few modern, young jazz musicians to reach a certain level of popularity that eludes most current jazzmen, Christian Scott appears to feel attacked much of the time. The liner notes of the album contain a three-page essay on his ruminations concerning his elders in New Orleans bemoaning his music's lack of bebop and swing rhythms, while the press release claims "Pyrrhic Victory of aTunde Adjuah" is a track expressing Scott's disappointment over the negative energy he's received since "completing [his] name".

But through the frustration he's felt in the two years since Yesterday You Said Tomorrow was released to near-universal critical acclaim (including from this writer) Scott's also managed to siphon that emotion into a sort of mental breakthrough, thoroughly embracing his New Orleans Black Indian heritage (Tremé, anyone?) via the album art, his name and the subjects of some of the tracks here ("Spy Boy / Flag Boy", "The Red Rooster"). There are also a few moments where he and his band - Jamire Williams (drums), Kris Funn (bass) and Matthew Stevens (guitar) return while Lawrence Fields replaces Milton Fletcher on the keys - attempt to embrace more traditional jazz values, though these are often fleeting in the service of proving old and new can meet halfway, if just for a moment.

Mostly, Christian aTunde Adjuah continues to emphasize Scott's apparent interest in the qualities of post-rock performers like Mogwai and Do Make Say Think. While his trumpet no doubt plays lead throughout the album, it's often hard to avoid getting the impression this time around that Matthew Stevens has earned equal sway within the band. Many of the tracks' most dominant melodies are his, with Scott's trumpet taking control by sheer volume as much as tonal impact. He is still by the far the most agreeable thing about this record, the reason you'd want to keep coming back for more, but this two disc set does feature plenty of songs that feel like a rock band playing host to a trumpet soloist rather than the other way around.

This is where Scott's description of his compositional style - termed "stretch" or "forecasting cell" in his liners - comes into play. "Stretch jazz" essentially feels like an easy way to avoid saying "post rock + math rock + jazz", but his explanation for "forecasting cells" has more science to it. I'm no theory expert, so the originality of the method isn't for me to decide, but he essentially leaves much of his work open to interpretation by the player, simply giving them the harmonic components he would like their playing to end with. In this way, Scott hopes his players will constantly question and manipulate the goal on their propulsive journey toward it.

It's the same technique he fostered into the jazz discussion with Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, and while its value as a stage for endlessly enjoyable music is still on display here, there are plenty of moments across the nearly two hours of music contained on these two discs that merely feel like variations on what Scott's done before. Perhaps this speaks to the confidence of his quintet, but depending on your ear for Scott's clearly defined sound you may find yourself, much like jazz traditionalists, wishing they would drop some of the more melodramatic elements of the guitar and piano playing and simply make a combustible little jazz album.

Politics weigh heavy on the two records: "Who They Wish I Was" is Scott musing on his comparisons to Miles Davis, "Berlin Patient (CCR5)" interprets the San Franciscan AIDS survivor who was cured in Germany, "When Marissa Stands Her Ground" was initially titled "Trayvon" after the ongoing scandalous Florida murder trial. "Fatima Aisha Rokero 400" carries the darkest intentions of them all, however, attempting a musical dialogue between the players on the Janjaweed soldiers' ethnic cleansing and rape of 400 Sudanese women in Rokero.

Even in hope, Scott can't help but feel slightly somber. "Kiel", an ode to his brother, is bright in the most muted of ways, an after midnight brand of happiness and pride that seems unsure of bombasity ("New New Orleans Stomp" is one of the few records to avoid this, showcasing this quintet in a much more exuberant tone than ever before) or bravado. While undeniably beautiful music, like most double discs it's a listening experience that suffers from dilution of the product. Even if you believe all or most of the tracks are gorgeous, as I can be persuaded to feel in the right setting, at some point it's impossible to avoid wondering which disc you'll be keeping in the car for a while and which will receive an extended stay in the jewel case.

And of course that's always the argument, that one is never expected to listen to both discs at once as much as be grateful they came in the same package. And it's truly exciting that this much Christian Scott music might drop into one's lap at once. His tone is gorgeous, and Jamire Williams is a tenacious drummer. Christian aTunde Adjuah unfortunately feels like it plays the same hand a few too many times; for all its talk of musical gambles and progressive thinking, the album surprises most by ultimately playing things a little too close to the vest.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.