Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Album Review: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah - Ancestral Recall

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah 
Ancestral Recall
***and1/2 out of *****

Following up the excellent and huge in scope Centennial Trilogy, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah goes even further away from traditional sound, pulling his self proclaimed "Stretch Music" as he explores lyrical passages, less and less horns and more and more variations on percussion and just odd soundscapes with Ancestral Recall.

The album opens with layered clapping leading into the most gorgeous and complete piece delivered this go around as "Her Arrival" is a stunner. Propelled by rhythmic drumming, trumpet blasts and a sense of purpose with band mate Elena Pinderhughes contributing on flute . "Before" (also featuring Pinderhuges) is a wonder as well as the natural sounds morph as the horns and flutes rise into a deep drum groove which enchants and could roll on forever; tracks like these are wonderful and point to CSaA's immense talent and ear for combining sonic worlds.

It must be noted though for all of the tracks success other times on the record, such as "Diviner [Devan]" and digitally repetitive "Prophesy", things feel as if they are just sonic experiments, not meant to really go anywhere, like all experiments, some are more successful than others. Vocals are now a clear part of CSaA's attack as his friend Saul Williams arrives to deliver his spoken word poetry over digital beats on "I Own The Night" and the incredibly percussive title track while "Forever Girl" invites MC's Mike Larry Draw and Chris Turner to rhyme and sing over the playing.

"Songs She Never Heard" pushes the groove but also incorporates soaring sax work from Logan Richardson and Lawrence Fields piano before distorting the sound with various filters and production tricks. A track like "Overcomer" feels like a natural progression as it incorporates breathy chanting, a deep bass groove and soaring solos, but the filters/production again shellacs the horn with distortion, diluting it's sound and impact. These production add on's seem to be the work of a restless ear and  while certainly unique, they tend to detract from the overall style. Scott has said he makes his own horns because he disliked the sound of the trumpet and that coloring of the main instrument can be both exciting and off putting. 

Also at times his horn work doesn't feel like main instrument on Ancestral Recall as the bass and drums in various coloring's are put in the forefront. Frequent collaborator Weedie Braimah percussion is all over the album as is the synth percussion from CSaA himself. "Ritual (Rise of Cheif Adjuah)" pairs that production with swirling sounds and horn work before petering out with weird synths then rising again around percussive hand drums.   

Ancestral Recall is a challenging album and one that continues the push for blending everything into the sonic whole, and while not always successful, it is never boring. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah is constantly trying out new scopes and spaces for sound and is tied to no musical boundary. This can be classified as jazz because what else can it be? The best answer is the one CSaA gave years ago, "stretch music" as he continues to explore and see how far he can take the sound and RtBE will certainly be along to enjoy the ride. 

(This album also made Glide Magazine's Top 20 Jazz Releases of 2019)
Support the artist, buy the album, stream it on bandcamp or below and peep some video:

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