Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah Melds Jazz And Hip-Hop Beats On 'Ruler Rebel'

Apr 5, 2017
Originally published on April 7, 2017 7:52 am
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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review of a new EP by trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. He was born in New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward and grew up involved with Mardi Gras Indian culture, a family tradition. Early on, he toured with his cousin, saxophonist and Indian Chief Donald Harrison. Scott aTunde Adjuah also melds jazz and hip-hop beats. Kevin says his new EP ties all those threads together.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH SONG, "ENCRYPTION")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah from his EP "Ruler Rebel." It's the first installment in his centennial trilogy commemorating the first jazz records a century ago. This is the sound of jazz, some jazz anyway, a hundred years on. "Ruler Rebel" is inflected with the looping rhythms and drum samples of contemporary hip-hop. But where some danceable bands get so deep in the groove, they neglect the solos, Scott serves up a lot of trumpet.

He has what you want in a soloist, a commanding personal voice and a sense of direction. He can play a line to pull you along.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH SONG, "NEW ORLEANIAN LOVE SONG")

WHITEHEAD: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah with four percussionists making their own looping rhythms. In Scott's hometown New Orleans, music has always had a spatial dimension. In Crescent City lore, sound travels. Back before jazz, West African drumming would thunder out of Congo Square on Sunday afternoons. Later, when Jazz king Buddy Bolden blew cornet in the parks, folks said you could hear him miles away.

Even now when a parade band passes through the next neighborhood over, you'll hear the sound fade in and out. ATunde Adjuah gets all that heritage into his spacious mix.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH SONG, "THE RECKONING")

WHITEHEAD: We mention that this music salutes the first jazz recordings a hundred years ago. Early jazz bands tended to adjust their sound when they went into the studio, not leased by restraining the drummer. And some revered groups existed only on record. So it's no problem this music might sound very different live. The blend of electronic percussion and West African hand drumming puts this music in its own sonic and time-traveling temporal space.

Here and there, Christian Scott can sound like a 21st century Herb Alpert, putting trumpet and a pop sensibility together. And that's OK. Here's a remix of one we already heard.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH SONG, "NEW ORLEANIAN LOVE SONG II; X. ATUNDE ADJUAH REMIX")

WHITEHEAD: Every jazz lover wants the music to find a younger audience. Look at all the people hoping "La La Land" will help, as if talk about jazz will win more converts than the music itself. Better to go out and grab listeners by the ears, as Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah does. To borrow an old New Orleans expression, he's got the kind of horn that can call the children home.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH SONG, "THE CORONATION OF X. ATUNDE ADJUAH")

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and TONE Audio and is the author of "Why Jazz?" He reviewed "Ruler Rebel," the new EP by Trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, we'll talk about how the next world war could start with one miscalculation now that Russia is determined to destabilize the West. My guest will be David Wood, Pulitzer Prize-winning military correspondent for The Huffington Post. Wood also writes about how the unfilled positions in the Pentagon and State Department mean there are fewer options for managing a crisis. I hope you'll join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our associate producer for online media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.