Christian Scott, also known as Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (born March 31, 1983, in New Orleans, Louisiana) is a two-time Edison Award winning and Grammy Award nominated trumpeter, composer and producer. He is the nephew of jazz innovator and legendary sax man, Donald Harrison, Jr. His musical tutelage began under the direction of his uncle at the age of thirteen. After graduating from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) in 2001, Christian received a full tuition scholarship to Berklee College of Music where he earned a degree in professional music and film scoring thirty months later.
Since 2002, Christian has released eleven critically acclaimed studio recordings, two live albums and one greatest hits collection. According to NPR, "Christian Scott ushers in new era of jazz". He has been heralded by JazzTimes Magazine as "Jazz's young style God." Christian is known for developing the harmonic convention known as the “forecasting cell” and for his use of an un-voiced tone in his playing, emphasizing breath over vibration at the mouthpiece. The technique is known as his “whisper technique.”
Christian is the progenitor of “Stretch Music,” a jazz rooted, genre blind musical form that attempts to “stretch” jazz’s rhythmic, melodic and harmonic conventions to encompass as many other musical forms, languages and cultures as possible. Jazz is a progressive musical movement and Christian is at the forefront of its continued viability as an art form. Christian’s 2015 release, Stretch Music, marked the partnership between Christian’s Stretch Music record label and Ropeadope Records. Critics and fans alike have praised the recording. Stretch Music is also the first recording to have an accompanying app, for which Christian won the prestigious JazzFM Innovator of the year Award in 2016. The Stretch Music App is an interactive music player that allows musicians the ability to completely control their practicing, listening and learning experience by customizing the player to fit their specific needs and goals.
In 2017, Christian released three albums, collectively titled The Centennial Trilogy, that debuted at number one on iTunes. The albums’ launch commemorated the 100th anniversary of the first Jazz recordings of 1917. The series is, at its core, a sobering re-evaluation of the social political realities of the world through sound. It speaks to a litany of issues that continue to plague the collective human experience, such as slavery in America via the Prison Industrial Complex, food insecurity, xenophobia, immigration, climate change, sexual orientation and gender inequality, fascism and the return of the demagogue.
The first release in the trilogy, Ruler Rebel, vividly depicts Adjuah's new vision and sound - revealing Adjuah to the listener in a way never heard before via a completely new production methodology that stretches trap music with West African and New Orleanian Black Indian masking tradition musical styles. Ruler Rebel’s release coincided with the first annual Stretch Music Festival at Harlem Stage in New York. The Stretch Music Festival, created and curated by Christian, explores the boundaries of Stretch, Jazz, Trap, and Alternative Rock with some of music’s most poised and fiery rising stars. The sold-out performances were met with praise from both music critics and fans. The second release, Diaspora, was showcased during Adjuah’s sold-out Carnegie Hall performance in 2017. The third release, Emancipation Procrastination, launched in September 2017 during NPR’s global Jazz Night in America broadcast from New Orleans.
Christian scored his identical twin brother’s and Director’s Guild of America 2015 Student Award recipient, writer-director and Spike Lee protégé, Kiel Adrian Scott’s, recent Student Academy Award nominated film, Samaria. Christian also scored Kiel’s award-winning film, The Roe Effect. He will also score Kiel’s feature length directorial debut, slated for production late 2018.
In addition to scoring documentaries for Hennessy Cognac and others, in 2017, Christian has scored commercials for Tag Heuer watch makers and The Gap clothing company, as well as music for ESPN’s Sports Center. Christian has also recently completed a music project, in which he served as leader, in conjunction with 1800 Tequila and Billboard Magazine called The Refined Player’s Series.
Since 2006, Christian has worked with a number of notable artists, including Prince, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, McCoy Tyner, Marcus Miller, Eddie Palmieri, rappers Mos Def (Yasin Bey), Talib Kweli, and Vic Mensa, as well as heralded poet and musician Saul Williams.
Additionally, through his partnership with Adam’s Instruments, Christian designed a signature line of horns, the Siren Trumpet, Sirenette and Reverse Flugelhorn that are revolutionizing brass instrument design all over the world. Domestic production of Christian’s proprietary reverse flugelhorn will begin in 2018.
Christian is a scion of New Orleans’ first family of art and culture, the Harrisons, and the grandson of legendary Big Chief, Donald Harrison Sr., who lead four nations in the City’s masking tradition. The HBO series, Treme, borrowed the name “Guardians of the Flame” from African-American cultural group Scott began “masking” as a member of with his grandfather in 1989. Christian recently became the Chief of The Brave, in February 2017, one his grandfather’s early banners. In 2018, Tulane University’s acclaimed Amistad Research Center announced its archive of the Donald Harrison, Sr. legacy papers to highlight the Harrison/Scott/Nelson family’s contributions to the arts, activism, and African diaspora cultural expressions. The Harrison family’s story has been documented by Oscar winning director, the late Jonathan Demme, in his post-Hurricane Katrina works.
Christian is dedicated to a number of causes that positively impact communities. He gives his time and talents in service to several organizations which garnered him a place in Ebony Magazine’s 30 Young Leaders Under 30. He has provided his services to Each One, Save One, NO/AIDS Task Force, Girls First, The Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame, Good Work Network and numerous other community service organizations. Holding master classes, creating and participating in discussion panels, and purchasing and giving away instruments, are all part of Christian’s community based work. He has worked with Guardians Institute in New Orleans’ 9th Ward, which is dedicated to reading and fiscal literacy, cultural retention and a firm commitment to the participation of community elders and artists in uplifting and supporting youths in underserved areas of New Orleans. Christian currently sits on the Boards of Guardians Institute and The NOCCA Institute. Since Christian’s emergence on the jazz music scene, he has been a passionate and vocal proponent of human rights and an unflinching critic of injustices throughout the world.
Letter to a future artist
As an artist, I am always attempting to do things that haven't been done. This goes beyond simply trying to be adept at something. It requires the ability to revisit past thought processes while considering new landscapes, along with continuously redefining oneself through failures as much as successes.
Regardless of the path taken, I have found one of the biggest challenges for an artist – especially a younger one – can be learning how to navigate others' imposing their thoughts or opinions of what artists should and should not do. Be it from those who consider themselves experts on the process, or those who just like to comment or judge. Over time, I have learned that people will always have opinions and will always seek opportunities to express those thoughts and sentiments.
Yes, those critical offerings can be distracting. And yes, they can inhibit an artist from concentrating on his or her craft. However, experience has informed me that the interpretations of others are valid unto themselves and can be used to learn more about people. I don’t make music as a means of forcing my vision onto others. My music is meant to communicate and it’s OK if the communication moves from artist to listener and back again. In my view, a necessary step in the maturation of any artist is the development of the ability to be objective about someone else’s reaction to their work. I feel a wider vision and understanding of music, and oneself, can be gained if artists allow this concept to become part of their artistic process.
I recall an evening, after a gig, on Frenchman Street in New Orleans. I was hanging with a group of my elders who were complaining that they felt swing rhythms and bebop phrasing were missing from the music of my generation. They felt that what we were creating should not be called Jazz. I asked if any of them had considered King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Kid Ory, Baby and Johnny Dodds, or Pops to be Jazz musicians. “Yes, of course!” they replied. I asserted, that based on their previous argument, none of those men should be considered Jazz musicians since their contributions predate swing AND bebop. I asked if they had considered the younger generation’s way of approaching those same musical elements could simply be less linear and packaged differently from what they were accustomed to hearing. They said they had considered it but stuck with their collective opinion.
At the crux of their argument is the same preoccupation with defining Jazz that has been part of the music since it was first called “Jazz.” The whole matter rests on the line that separates the word “Jazz” as a definition as opposed to a description. Using the term to describe my work is fine by me. However, just because it can be said that my work is inherently Jazz does not mean that it is exclusively Jazz. It is also important to note the fundamental difference between a definition and a description. When one defines something, they are forcing it to exist within the confines of its explanation. A description, on the other hand, is a discourse intended to give a mental image of an experience or an account of the relevant characteristics or qualities of something. So, in this sense, Jazz as a definition separates, excludes, and misses out on being open and free to grow. In my opinion, it's freedom that actually defines Jazz and has given new life to the form. To the ears of those earlier referenced veterans, what came before had value and therefore had to be respected. I feel it’s just as important to be open to what is coming next and that each generation should have a chance to create and contribute something of their making.
I would be lying if I said my elders and I agreed to disagree. We did not. I left the conversation pretty upset, actually more pissed off than pretty upset. Then, I thoughtfully weighed their words. The more I was willing to listen to where they were coming from, the more my stance evolved from what was a relentless search to find something new, to combining that search with a want to create music that will be as relevant now as the music they grew up with. They want to hear that younger artists have done the homework, the same due diligence that members of their generation were required to know and exhibit. I found inspiration in that and it definitely made me think more conscientiously about the music I am making. I realized that if I am truly going to be a voice for this time, I have to consider multiple perspectives. Their critique helped me understand that a firm knowledge of what came before is equally as important as an unflinching willingness to seek new landscapes and opportunities. A marriage of these ideas could create a truly lasting impression that could inspire a new generation to reach - to stretch – further.
I have heard some describe our approach as "stretch,” or calling what we play, "stretch music.” It’s true that we are attempting to stretch—not replace—Jazz's rhythmic, melodic and harmonic conventions to encompass as many musical forms/languages/cultures as we can. My core belief is that no form of expression is more valid than any other. This belief has compelled me to attempt to create a sound that is genre blind in its acculturation of other musical forms, languages, textures, conventions and processes. This is done as a means of extending the dialogue of the human condition across the lines of cultural and genre based barriers. As an example, if I take five people from completely different cultural/linguistic backgrounds and put them in a room with an objective of collective participation, they are going to have to reevaluate the way they communicate. They are going to have to learn to communicate in a way that is clear to one another in order to achieve their goal. It is as much a philosophy as a musical approach—diplomacy in music if you will. Recognizing that all points of view are in fact legitimate, and from there, choosing to learn to communicate in a way where you can reach a consensus.
This is what you will hear on our recordings; a stretching of Jazz, not a replacement. And this is what I hope younger people will be able to take away from it as well: the idea that innovation should never be regarded as a problem in artistic practice, that one should always be aware of what has come before, and finally, that criticisms shouldn't evoke paralysis, they should inspire action.
The forecasting Cell in STREtcH MUSIC
Stretch Music in its approach to communicating sentiment in composition is akin to a musical version of a cubist’s rendering of an object. In analytic cubism, objects are taken apart, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form that depicts the object from multitude perspectives. This gives a more global viewing of what comprises the object. A more clear representation of what the object (or in our case, sentiment through sound) is. It is a violent attempt to rid the listener of any uncertainty of meaning or intention and to enforce a more focused reading of the sentiment being articulated.
This is achieved through the use of a new harmonic convention I call a Forecasting Cell. In 2009 I began to delve deeper into my studies of harmonic intent and it dawned on me that the only way to give a clearer explanation of what one wants to convey musically, would be to create a means of questioning the improviser, thus forcing him to clarify his/her statements. It is my observation that no matter what context or environment someone is in, the tactic that is most commonly employed to reach a better understanding of something is a question. And just as questions are framed in a way that imply what the questioner seeks to know, Forecasters are also designed in a way that imply musical answers. A Forecasting Cell is a harmonic convention that illuminates the end result of a harmonic sentence preceding its resolution. Because the end result of the harmonic sentence is already outlined, the improviser and accompanist are coerced into a constant reevaluation of the topography of the harmonic/melodic landscape, ultimately resulting in the improviser being forced to question before he renders a verdict. This questioning not only makes the intentions of the improviser clearer but also, through a constant reevaluation of the harmolodic landscape, helps in sharpening the communal dialogue of the unit. Both "Yesterday You Said Tomorrow" and Christian aTunde Adjuah/Christian Scott were composed with Forecasting Cells as their primary harmonic conduit.
Enjoy the music,
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah