Updated: Apr 25, 2019
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
23 March 2019
Stretch Music / Ropeadope Records
Album Rating: 4/5
Live Potential: 5/5
Solo Performances: 4/5
Diversity in Songs: 3.5/5
Favourite Songs: I Own The Night (track 2), Prophecy (track 9), Before feat. Elena Pinderhughes (track 10).
The two-time GRAMMY-nominated and Edison Award winning trumpeter returns with his latest album, Ancestral Recall, following the series of 2017 releases dubbed The Centennial Trilogy (Ruler Rebel, Diaspora & The Emancipation Procrastination) that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first jazz recordings being released. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah sets out to explore his ancestral roots in this release, attempting to break down the very way in which western music is constructed and listened to. Scott, whose roots are from the Black Indian tradition in New Orleans, was determined to recreate what it feels like to be a part of “tribal spaces”. With Ancestral Recall, Scott is “de-colonising” the way we interpret and think about sound.
Instead of taking centre stage, Scott heavily relies on traditional West African drumming patterns, Caribbean rhythms and New Orleanian beats to form the bedrock of this release, thereby continuing his concept of “Stretch Music”, which sets out to transcend the boundaries of jazz’s traditional conventions by incorporating various musical cultures and languages. As a result, Weedie Braimah (Trombone Shorty, Oteil Burbridge, The Nth Power), Corey Fonville (Butcher Brown) drive and provides the album pulse. The prodigious flautist Elena Pinderhuges (Ambrose Akinmusire, Stefon Harris) returns to Scott’s roster, with the record also seeing guest appearances from Logan Richardson (Nicola Conte, Gerald Clayton) on alto sax, Chris Turner and Mike Larry Draw providing vocals as well the presence of prolific rapper / poet Saul Williams.
Ancestral Recall begins joyfully with “Her Arrival” (track 1), in which lively claps and Weedie Braimah’s thundering hands construct the framework which guides the album. The record grows as Scott’s light trilling trumpet builds the texture alongside Pinderhughes’s bouncing flute before both sounds give way to Scott’s regal fanfare, as if announcing that this is the start of something new. “Her Arrival” melts away and leads to “I Own The Night” (track 2), which is a highlight of the record. “I Own The Night” is a fascinating track as it sees Scott being more adventurous with his use of samples and loops. The track sees Scott using a combination of Braimah and Fonville’s complimenting rhythmic patterns, Saul Williams’s vociferous vocals and a somewhat early Moby-like use of a recurring soundscape. Williams poetic and image-filled verses lead us through this wall of sound before Scott unleashes a heart wrenching, bluesy trumpet solo. The raw emotion which Scott releases here, and throughout the album, is spine-tingling. Solos like this show that the trumpeter doesn’t rely on a cascade of detached notes, but instead lets each individual note count and ring true. Moments such as these undeniably prove why Scott is one of the finest trumpet players to have ever graced the world of music.
Scott’s deviation away from melody driven songs is perhaps why Elena Pinderhughes is not featured anywhere near as much as she has been for the last four records. However, when she does appear – particularly on “Before” (track 10) – she gracefully establishes to the listener that she is one of the most distinctive and unique flautists of her generation. Saul Williams’s appearance on the album is a particularly nice touch, as the way in which he switches between pulsing and lyrical prose means he never commands centre stage for long, but rather helps build the rhythmic forces which he finds himself surrounded by.
Although you can still recognise and hear the characteristic sound which Christian Scott has moulded over the past few years, Ancestral Recall is different. The record is a clear epitaph for Scott’s drive and passion for evolving and pushing the boundaries of what jazz is. Scott claims that this record may be easily “misunderstood” in its own time. Some may not fully appreciate the record, yet Ancestral Recall undoubtedly demonstrates Scott’s propensity to innovate and be at the forefront of the jazz world like all the greats who have preceded him.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah - Trumpet & Flugelhorn; Saul Williams - Vocals (tracks 2, 3, 12); Elena Pinderhughes - Flute (tracks 1, 5, 10); Logan Richardson - Alto Saxophone (track 7); Weedie Braimah - Percussion (tracks 1, 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 12); Corey Fonville (tracks 2, 3, 4, 7,12); Lawrence Fields - Piano (tracks 7, 12); Kris Funn - Bass (tracks 4, 7); Chris Turner - Vocals (track 4); Mike Larry Draw - Vocals (track 4).