Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Album Review: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah- Diaspora

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
**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" with modern Trap styling, West African rhythms and New Orleans Indian flair; this is concurrently an experimental and historical effort.

On the first release of this trilogy, CSaTA used his talents to fully (and excellently) evolve his Stretch style. On the second chapter, Diaspora, he is more focused on setting a relaxed mood. Taken individually this effort underwhelms, but as part of the collective whole (especially it's first and last tracks) it links thematically to it's sister records and also historically to the smooth jazz greats.

The R&B tinged title track opens the proceedings, grooving out easily with a piano motif. Cool and bubbly as a Ramos Gin Fizz from Bar Tonique the track is soulful, aided by Elena Pinderhughes flute, but on this effort CSaTA's trumpet work is the shining lead. The easy rolling continues for "IDK" where the piano again sets the theme as Braxton Cook's saxophone joins to perform a duet with CSaTA's horn work.

The city that is so much at the center of his work gets more love with "Our Lady of New Orleans (Herreast Harrison)" but where "New Orleans Love Song" on Rebel/Ruler was a burst of rhythmic energy, here the coolness of the Diaspora mellows the mood. That mellowness continues to the point of dullness as both "Desire For The Burning Girl" and "Uncrown Her" fail to live up tho their engaging titles.

"Lawless" is the first track to become inventive and it is the drums/rhythms that do all the heavy lifting here, closing with a drum solo. The percussion also perks up for the interluding "New Jack Bounce" and "No Love" rises above the other slow jams based on the low end bumping bass, finding CSaTA using all of his skills expertly.

Things revert to cool jazz for "Completely" as Pinderhughes flute gains a larger role while the album closes with the vocal help of Sarah Elizabeth Charles on "The Walk". The finale is the most positive force on the album with its hyper piano work, deeper beats, (once again) Pinderhughes flute and CSaTA's scurrying horn playing against the slow groove. 

Those fans of more direct straight, easy listening jazz will gravitate to Diaspora, the most digestible of Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah Centennial Trilogy. For an artist with such amazing talents this middle section just feels too safe, especially in comparison to it's bookend releases.
RtBE has 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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