Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
(EartH, Hackney Arts Centre. EFG London Jazz Festival, Saturday 16 November. Review by Alison Bentley)
“The sound doesn’t lie,” said US trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah in a recent interview. He played tonight as if he had something urgent to say – and the audience was ready to listen. Congas (Weedie Braimah) opened a powerful Afro-Latin groove, Scott aTunde Adjuah playing with a heat that made the audience feel we had to follow him. Logan Richardson’s long, expressive alto notes had some of Courtney Pine’s ability to communicate. Scott aTunde Adjuah later told us about Richardson’s “intention to be sincere… not just playing lots of notes”. As the grooves intensified through the gig, though, bass subtones sometimes distorted and blurred the overall sound – but it couldn’t disguise the compelling nature of their playing. Another piece held on to the energy, Corey Fonville’s boiling cymbals and Max Mucha’s bass pulsing the African cross-rhythms. The audience particularly loved Scott aTunde Adjuah’s high, wild notes. Songs She Never Heard, about long-distance relationships, took a sweeter path through mellow triads and subtle conga sections. Lawrence Fields’ piano seemed to pull the funky, latin groove in different directions. Richardson played melodically, as if he was singing, but later broke into wild trills.
Herbie Hancock’s Eye of the Hurricane, requested by some young musicians, took us deep into the hurricane itself. Scott aTunde Adjuah talked about Fields’ ability to absorb different musical languages, and Fields had a Herbie-ish chromatic feel here. Trumpet and saxophone swapped solos in an impassioned dialogue; their turns got shorter and speedier, till they overlapped in articulate, energetic bursts. The next piece kept the ’60s/’70s vibe, with Fender Rhodes from Fields: Red Clay-era Freddie Hubbard came to mind. The groove seemed to move across the beat, like walking on deck far out at sea.
Scott aTunde Adjuah’s family is part of the Black Indian tradition of New Orleans, with a major role in the Mardi Gras carnival. He’s described his music as ”socially-charged”, and he talked tonight about social justice – the audience cheering his words the way they did his solos. He’s now a Black Indian Chief, and they ended with “the rhythm we play for the babies the first time they see their chief”. Strong horn harmonies and blazing piano held the driving rhythm. Braimah’s jembe drums scattered beats on to the groove; Fonville exploded into a drum solo; the band was compelling to the last note.
Madison McFerrin, a tiny figure on a huge stage, won the audience’s hearts with a short opening acapella set, augmented by tracks produced by brother Taylor. Daughter of singer Bobby McFerrin, she drew on her father’s multi-tracking style, but with a high, clear voice – a little Erykah, a little Joni. It was intriguing to hear her build her voice into a choir, looping in layers of harmony.
Categories: Live review
The concert was excellent, no doubt about that. Exquisite playing by all. But Christian gave much more space to his band members than he did to himself. For those of us who had come to hear the man himself it was a little disappointing, but the end results was still wonderful. And his addresses to the audience were sincere and moving, let’s hope we all act on them.