Christian Scott, also known as Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, is a scion of the artistic and social elite of New Orleans. A trumpeter, composer, musical producer and instrument designer, Scott is a member of a family of musicians and social leaders who grew up to a world of sound and action. He is the nephew of saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. who played among others with Roy Haynes and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and grandson of the legendary Donald Harrison Sr., the Big Chief of four Black Indian tribes. JazzTimes Magazine chose to describe him as “Jazz’s young style God.” Indeed, the combination of his musical education and social and political consciousness shapes his life and leads his original artistic work with a confident momentum. Atunde and Adjuah are the names of two cities in Ghana in West Africa. “This is just a way for me to tell the world that I accept all of my past and am willing to explore it,” he says. “In a sense I haven’t changed my name. I’ve completed it to reflect another part of my ancestry and lineage—the part before Scott.”
He started playing at the age of twelve, 22 years ago, and before long began performing with the band. “My uncle took me back to the very beginning of the music,” he depicts the upbeat musical mentoring he had received. As a young teenager, Scott had already contributed to various recordings and his debut album as a bandleader was released in 2002, when he was only 19 years old. This album won him a Grammy nomination and was described by the Billboard Magazine as, “Arguably the most remarkable premiere the genre has seen in the last decade.”
Scott, a Berklee alumni and twice a winner of the Edison Prize, has released ten albums as a bandleader. He also composed music for films and collaborated with many artists, including McCoy Tyner, Prince, Marcus Miller, Eddie Palmieri, Mos Def (Yasiin Bey), Thom Yorke and Solange Knowles. He is devoted to social causes, active in educational organizations, and many sections in his albums are dedicated to burning political issues, from gay marriage to the US police conduct towards African-American citizens.
His music combines traditional jazz with influences of rock, hip-hop, and R&B. From reflective and airy ballads to sweeping energetic pieces, he juggles three and a half octaves of the trumpet, producing vivid phrases or heartbreaking howls. He calls his contemporary and innovative style “Stretch Music” because he stretches the boundaries of rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic conventions to include as many musical forms, expressions and cultures as possible. He is an artist who seeks innovation at every turn. He developed a new harmonic convention called the Forecasting Cell that is mainly focused on a given harmonic component and the exploration that precedes the decision to play one sound or another. The use of the trumpet’s mouthpiece with a distinct emphasis on breath rather than vibration is widely known as his “whisper technique”. His album Stretch Music is accompanied by an interactive application for aspiring improvisers, which allows access to work with each individual instrument’s audio channel along with tempo control, looping and sheet music for each part.
Scott also designed several unique trumpets in collaboration with Dutch manufacturer Adams Musical Instruments. His drawings became a reality with a line of especially built signature brass models that include the siren, sirenette and reverse flugel. The initial concept was to explore ways to achieve a different sound. “The shape of the instruments that we have for seventy or eighty years is not the best shape that will ever exist,” explains Scott, “we don’t know if this will ever catch on or if this ends up being the best shape, but the idea is that you have to continue to keep pushing.” Indeed, he keeps pushing further, rising up to the challenge as set by the American National Public Radio network (NPR): “Christian Scott ushers in new era of jazz.”
Christian Scott Trumpet
Lawrence Fields Piano, Keys
logan richardson Sax
Luques Curtis Bass
Corey Fonville Drums
Photographer: Roberto Cifarelli