Christian Scott – Not just home for the holidays
23rd December 2013 · 0 Comments
By Geraldine Wyckoff
There exists a road well traveled by many of New Orleans’ most successful contemporary jazz musicians. Trumpeter Christian Scott, also known as aTunde Adjuah, is rapidly moving along that highway. At a young age, Scott, like his uncle, saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr., trumpeter Nicholas Payton and others, left his hometown to ultimately establish a career in New York. Having accomplished that aim, the trumpeter now has the luxury of moving back to New Orleans.
“I can’t express in words how it feels – I’m elated,” says Scott who performs at Snug Harbor on Sunday, December 29. “ Now, if somebody wants me to play somewhere or do a session they’ll send me a (plane) ticket. I’m very fortunate in my life and my business that I can live any place in the world.”Scott, 30, finished a European tour about two weeks ago, bought a car last week and is looking for a home for he and his wife of six months, Isadora Mendez. “I’m going to put some roots down,” he happily proclaims. Musically, the energized, creatively bent, Grammy nominated jazz explorer looks to shake up the scene a bit.
“I’d like to let them (musicians here in New Orleans) know that I was a guy that was here and that I was always told when I was little that you had to learn “Tiger Rag” before you could play “Donna Lee,” says Scott, who feels he understands the difficulties of pursuing expressive outlets in a city steeped in tradition. “I certainly appreciate that and absolutely respect that because it made me the man that I am. Now it’s time that I come back and rev things up a little bit and create a different lane for musicians,” adds Scott who worked with young musicians when he was living in Harlem.
At the Snug date, Scott will be joined by, among others, drummer Joe Dyson and bassist Max Moran, two on-the-rise, 20-something jazz artists who, like Scott, really got their kick start in saxophonist Donald Harrison’s band. He’s worked with both of these guys extensively through the years.
“I was really fortunate to have the opportunity to be in Donald’s groups,” says Scott of playing with his uncle who is known for mentoring young musicians. “A lot of those guys that are (legendary drummer) Art Blakey alums have that mindset. They realize that one of the most important things that you can do is to try and nurture a musician that is in his or her adolescence into their musical adulthood.”
Likewise, Scott’s touring/recording ensemble includes two 22-year-old musicians, saxophonist Braxton Cooke and drummer Corey Fonzille. “I’m catching myself using the word young,” Scott says with a laugh. “Even though I’m only 30 years old, I’ve seen a lot and I’ve been out there for a long time. Young musicians have new and fresh ideas. I’m into new ideas – I like it.”
Scott has no intention of slowing down his pace on moving from the Big Apple to the Big Easy. He plans to release three very different albums in the next 18 months – a blues-based recording “with our little turn on things,” what he describes as an acoustic hip-hop with guest MCs CD and a disc featuring a double quartet with two drummers.
“It’s really about escalation,” Scott explains of his productivity. “I’ve never really had a lag with my compositional output – I love writing – and I have a really good relationship with Concord/Universal music. I’m just fortunate to be with a record label that lets me record whatever I want and whenever I want. It’s not always like that. Who knows it might not be like that in 15 years time.”
Known for his high style, Scott also hopes to not only shake up jazz music but the fashion scene in New Orleans as well.
“I’m excited to mix it up a bit here,” Scott enthusiastically says. “Younger musicians have been wearing lines that endorse me. (He mentions Comme de Garcons and a New York boutique, Selima Optic for accessories like sunglasses). “In New York the expectation is to switch your style up. When I first came out, I used to be hell bent on wearing a suit because Donald wore such nice suits. I’m waiting on the new Kanye West shoes to come out. They’re called Red October.”
As heard throughout his career, and perhaps even more so on his last two releases, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow and Christian aTunde Adjuah, Scott doesn’t stand still musically. “I always call our music – this generation of younger jazz musicians – stretch music. Offering an example, he explains that his composition, “New New Orleans” is an amalgamation of all the different rhythmic concepts that exist here – older traditional, second line, Mardi Gras Indian and bounce. “We figured that there’s been over 100 years of different rhythmic musical vernacular that has existed and we wanted to see where that took us.”
With Scott living back home, New Orleans will be getting a closer look at just where that journey – the “stretch” – might wander. Sincere yet casual about his new name, which comes from a combination of two cities in Benin, now Ghana, West Africa, Scott says: “It’s just a new world idea of who I am. If I’m walking down the street and somebody calls me Christian I’ll smile with the same smile as I smile if they call me aTunde Adjuah.”
This article originally published in the December 23, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.