Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Album Review: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah- Ruler Rebel

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Ruler Rebel
****and1/2 out of *****

Forward looking Jazz artist Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah went large in 2017 releasing 3 albums collectively known as the Centennial Trilogy celebrating one hundred years since the first recorded jazz song. It is a large long project that has one foot in the past and one in the future. The artist is also searching for something deeper:
The series is, at its core, a sobering re-evaluation of the social and political realities of the world through sound. It speaks to a litany of issues that continue to plague our collective experiences. Slavery in America via the Prison Industrial Complex, Food Insecurity, Xenophobia, Immigration, Climate Change, Sexual Orientation, Gender Equality, Fascism and the return of the Demagogue.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah holds nothing back and fusing his own "Stretch Music" style with modern Trap styling, West African rhythms and New Orleans Indian flair; this is concurrently an experimental and historical effort.

His first release of the trilogy Ruler Rebel is a blazing success, planting a flag in the ground of modern jazz. The album is an amalgamation of sound and style and the truest form of CSaTA's desired jazz/trap/stretch music yet. The title track sets the fusion of styles stage with bright brass, piano flourishes, strings and deep beats; a regal start. "New Orleans Love Song" gets the energy truly flowing with calypso dance beats, tambourines, piano scales and trumpet blares the song is exactly what it's title proclaims; sonic spicy gumbo.     

The past/present/future merge on "Rise Again [Allmos Remix]" and "Encryption" the two standout offerings on the album. "Rise Again" takes it's skittering trap beats, excellent piano work and fierce yet cultured horn lines into a cohesive pulsating track (ending too soon) while "Encryption" pushes things even further out and winningly succeeds. The track showcases great dance beats building with dynamic drum work, constantly supported by grooving soul claps. A dire/dred filled piano line enters and twists the sounds before the ferocious flute work of Elena Pinderhughes soars (this is simply put some of the best flute work RtBE has ever heard) raising the stakes before a noiserock finish that stuns; this track is audio dynamite. 

This album isn't perfect however, the remixed "New Orleans Love Song II" zaps the original of it's organic energy, instead injecting digital beats and a New Age melancholy that drags laboriously (even with stunningly great horn lines from CSaTA himself) while "Phases" features excellent vocals from Sarah Elizabeth Charles but never fully connects the variant parts to a greater whole.

The bass lines and rhythm foundation dominate the last two offerings, "The Coronation of X aTunde Adjuah" and "The Reckoning". The latter is ready made for an MC to arrive and take the track as their own with it's skittering bass/drum work and gorgeous high trumpet progressions while "The Coronation of X aTunde Adjuah" starts more experimental but ends with a pop brass/woodwind finish that could be the foundation for a remixed single.

With the first of his Centennial Trilogy releases Ruler Rebel is a kick ass way to announce a major release in the modern jazz world by a major player. The disk has the rare ability to cross genres, fan-bases, and worlds with it's modern sound, bold pairings and just damn enjoyable music.   
We have done Jazzy January for a few years now and without a doubt our favorite find was back in 2016 when we first heard Stretch Music from Christian Scott who quickly added aTunde Adjuah to his name. It is actually one of the reasons we continue to do this focus every year, hoping to find an amazing artist like this.

This week (after our MLK salute) is dedicated to CSaTA with reviews of his Centennial Trilogy and a Full Show Friday celebrating the artist and his collaborators.

Please support the artist, buy the album, stream it on bandcamp or below and peep some video:

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