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In general, musicians hate being assigned to a genre. The desire to experiment, create a definitive personal sound, and reach new audiences is universal. But it’s rare that an artist actually succeeds in shaking off the categorical restraints that we as journalists, fans and consumers impose upon them. Christian Scott is one who has succeeded.
Christian aTunde Adjuah, the 29-year-old trumpeter’s forthcoming album, surveys his West African heritage, New Orleans ancestry, and present-day Harlem lifestyle. It’s a lot of ground – personally and musically – to cover. But skirting conventionality yet again, the music is allowed plenty of breathing room on an album that clocks in at 23 tracks and a hair under two hours long.
As is often the case with Christian Scott’s records, every composition has a backstory. Much of aTunde Adjuah is, according to Scott, protest music – inspired by ethnic cleansing, racial injustice and war. What's apparent is a sense of yearning… a propulsive energy (supplied in large part by drummer Jamire Williams)… and a refreshingly untethered yet grounded modern jazz sound reminiscent of the hip hop/R&B leanings of artists like Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding. This track, “The Red Rooster,” demonstrates all of those traits in a less brow-furrowing context - it takes its name from the nouveau-Harlem eatery two blocks from Scott's home. Clinking glasses and bursts of laughter would fit right in.