|The Rebel Ruler London launch|
Photo credit: Ethan Saunders
Christian Scott - Rebel Ruler Album Launch
(Birthdays, Dalston - 31st March 2017 - Review by Leah Williams.)
Big day for Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah on Friday - not only was it his birthday (and yes, he made a joke about the fact he was playing Birthdays on his birthday) but also the day his new, astonishing album Rebel Ruler came out.
This album (on Ropeadope) is the first of a series of three - aptly named The Centennial Trilogy - that he’s set to release over this year to mark the centenary of the first ever commercial jazz recordings in 1917 and, if this debut is anything to go by, then it’s set to make waves. Going straight in at no.1 on the iTunes Jazz Charts, Adjuah’s continued popularity is representative of the thirst for such fresh, boundary-crossing, politically representative, all-encompassing, culturally diverse sound. Adjuah’s particular style being coined as Stretch Music: a “genre-blind musical form” that is taking off in a big way with the first ever Stretch Music Festival having taken place in Harlem earlier this year.
Not only is he an incredibly talented musician but he has embraced everything that music can offer in terms of composition, production, experimentation and social impact (or even responsibility). They say it’s never good to meet your heroes and, whilst seeing someone on stage perhaps doesn’t quite count as “meeting” them, if we can use a bit of flexibility with the term here then “meeting” Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah was certainly far from disappointing. Charismatic, down-to-earth, humble, and generous with his words, personality and music, seeing him perform live exceeded expectations. A great leader for the musical revolution that’s underway.
The gig was much more than a reproduction of the album. He promised the audience: “we’ve got a lot of new stuff to play with up here so I hope y’all don’t mind us experimenting on you tonight” and experiment they did, in the most sublime of ways. There were so many soundscapes, amazing solos and improvisations that kept the spirit of jazz innovation well and truly alive whilst also giving a great insight into the soul of his new album.
The chemistry on stage was so palpable and synergetic that it was no surprise when he dedicated a whole 15 minutes to introducing each band member along with a funny story about his long relationship with them (the stand out of the night being the fact that drummer Corey Fonville had been ‘bugging’ him to join the band since he was 13 by prank calling him “literally every day” pretending to be his grandmother - we were then treated to a hilarious on-the-spot rendition of this). Keys player Zaccai Curtis, bassist Max Mucha, and alto saxophonist Logan Richardson, also seemed to have long musical histories with Adjuah, and the time he dedicated to putting their talent and personalities across really added an extra element when listening to them play.
The final tune was the standout piece and will surely have resonated with the audience long after the final note was played. The Last Chieftain is inspired by a life-changing lesson he learnt from his grandfather as a child: “you don’t build tribes with hate, you build them with love.” It is a message with strong resonance and relevance for our time, which deserves to be heard.