Christian Scott at Gibson Guitar Center in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Ed Hamilton checks out the trumpeter in a performance in Southern California

Trumpeter Christian Scott performed music from his new cd entitled Atunde Adjuah at the Gibson Guitar Center in Beverly Hills. A CD release party sponsored by KJAZZ and Ms. McKenzie Wheeler, Membership Director, who explained KJAZZ’s connection with Scott. Payne Biscaia, Sales Manager, Ms. Wheeler and Scott collaborated for this first-time listening event giving those in attendance an autographed CD. Scott led a quintet consisting of Matt Stevens, guitar; Lawrence Fields, piano; Christopher Funn, Bass; and Jamire Williams, drums.

Atunde Ajuah is Scott’s newly adopted Swahili name derived from his grandfather’s explanation of the family tree name. He told the story that when he was in the second grade on his first day of school, his elementary school teacher told him and his twin brother that his family name Scott, was really not their name. So, thus was the impetus to find the history of his name and thus came the assumption of Atunde Adjuah.

His music displayed inherent, ambivalent feelings about his city New Orleans and the prejudice and racism exhibited throughout the city’s history. “Danziger Bridge Massacre,” Scott explained, “is a homage to the people who were shot and killed by New Orleans Police attempting to cross over the bridge seeking shelter from Hurricane Katrina.” And “KKKP—The Ku Klux Klan Police” musically described Scott’s confrontation with New Orleans Police on his way home after a gig with Soulive. “Something very common to black men” he said, being stopped by police for driving while black on the streets of New Orleans.” Both songs were played with passion, emotion and angst—emoting Scott’s disdain for New Orleans’ police brutality and harassment.

Scott’s impetus to play trumpet came from his uncle, altoist Donald Harrison, the former Jazz Messenger who schooled him daily for ten years after he moved in. Scott said he took up trumpet because, “My uncle drove a Lamborghini and girls loved trumpet players in the band—they were more popular than quarterbacks.”

When asked about the connection and ties between Wynton Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, Irving Mayfield, Terence Blanchard and himself, he said, “We’re all from New Orleans and taught by the same teacher who was my grandfather’s best friend—Clyde Kerr, Jr. He trained everybody from Wynton on down. Guys from New Orleans are still playing Clyde Kerr’s stuff. They are all phenomenal trumpet players. There’s a saying you can pitch a rock and hit a good trumpet player because they’re all over New Orleans. Trumpet players have a prolific history of being champions for the culture of New Orleans.”

His influences were Kid Ory, Satchmo, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Blue Mitchell, Kenny Dorham, and years later after listening to Kind of Blue, Miles Davis. Scott’s musical technique elicits the direction that reminds listeners of Miles’ change in his musical directions on Miles In the Sky. He says people often say he reminds them of Miles.

In summation, Christian Scott Atunde Ajuah played in a different style and he described it, saying, “Some elder New Orleans brothers asked me why the younger musicians don’t play with rhythm and harmony and aren’t playing jazz. I responded, ‘Jelly Roll Morton, Satchmo and Bix didn’t contribute to swing or bop—were they playing jazz?’ They responded ‘Yes, of course.’ Jazz is a description and my playing is ‘Stretch music’—an attempt to stretch-not replace jazz’s rhythmic, melodic and harmonic conventions. Using the term jazz to describe my work is fine by me but does not mean it is exclusively jazz. My core belief is that no form of expression is more valid than any other. This belief compelled me to attempt to create a sound that is genre blind.”

Scott’s set was an articulate musical tour-de-force that included past references of himself and his newly acquired self. Saying “Identity is important,” he now maintains total completeness in knowing both trumpeters—Christian Scott and now Atunde Ajuah.

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Ed Hamilton