In this episode, trumpet virtuoso Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah drinks cucumber and sage gimlets and munches on Zapp’s potato chips while talking about his three-album project, The Centennial Trilogy, and the future of jazz music.
“I dig the rain, man,” Adjuah coolly drawls with a full smile.
It’s not hard to imagine that Adjuah is permanently unflappable. Not simply because he is unfazed by the April shower that soaks anything that dares to step into its windy deluge (as he puts it, “The summers in New Orleans are really, really hot. It just feels like some big, hairy dude breathing down your neck.”), but because of the seemingly equal measures of enthusiasm with which he speaks on all things, from his prominent role in the establishment and development of second-century jazz musicians to potato chips swamped in nacho cheese.
Releasing his second album of 2017 today, June 23, Diaspora marks the second installment in his Centennial Trilogy—the first being the outstanding Ruler Rebel. An ambitious project that is matched by poised curiosity and ingenuity in mind and sound, after an hour in conversation with Adjuah, you leave with the feeling that he just gets it (it = anything).
And his music – it gets it too.
Watch the extended interview of Christian where he talks about New Orleans, the evolution of jazz, and his custom instruments.
Pregame with Adjuah above, and check out an assortment of his best words of wisdom—and words of drink—from the full shoot below.
“It’s weird, though, right, because it’s really like the carcasses of all of these crawfish, but you only get this much (gestures small amount) meat. It looks like a much larger meal than it is sometimes, like, really deceptive. It just looks like a crawfish graveyard.”
“I used to love playing Trivial Pursuit because that was their way of vetting and making sure we were well-versed, but I haven’t played in so long, so I’m hoping that I’m not so terrible. I don’t even remember how it looked, that’s how long it’s been since I played this. Can we just make up our own version of it? Like, Hood Trivial Pursuit? ‘What is Cam’ron’s favorite color?’ ‘Pink?’ ‘Yup, that’s it!’”
“The music that we make we call ‘stretch music’. It’s sort of second-century jazz. But a big part of it looks to try to inculturate as many seemingly disparate vernacular landscapes, modes of operating, and musical contexts back with a creative, improvised context. It really is the sound of re-evaluation. It’s the jazz musicians’ attempt to reevaluate the way that they communicate with the listener, and to build bridges again.”
“I listened to bounce music, trap music, all of these things. I was born in 1983, I was a huge Prince fan. I used to walk around my crib when I was a little boy wearing purple drawers, so obviously my music is going to sound a little different than someone born in 1950.”
“One of the things that I’ve seen is historically when there’s turmoil in the country, and there’s dissent, and people are upset about being led astray, and they start to wake up to those things, they almost always find their way into creative, improvised music and jazz music.”
“These ones are popular in the neighborhood. [Opens bag of chips and smells deep.] Oh, yeah… You know, like, your sense memory kicks in? Many nights walking home after school, and you stop in a bodega and get a bag of these bad boys.
“There was a lady in my neighborhood who used to sell these, and she would do nachos and these things we call hucklebucks. For like five extra cents, she would fill your Zapp’s bag with nacho cheese, and you’d just come with a yellow face. So good. She would do it with Cheetos too, but that was a lot.”
“[Ruler Rebel] deals with identity politics of the person that is creating all of this. Diaspora is the second record, that’s like who he’s been listening to. The third record’s called The Emancipation Procrastination, and this is, ultimately, the message that’s being conveyed.”
“The thing for me, when I listen to rappers like Eric B. and Rakim, when I listen to Biggie Smalls, to me, I hear the jazz of it. I won’t say all hip-hop music. When we talk about what flow is, you talk about Rakim and flow and Biggie Smalls, these dudes have very sophisticated, rhythmic concepts. So, it’s really no different than what I’m doing on a trumpet. One of the baddest, dopest, jazz musicians—in my mind’s eye—of all time is Notorious B.I.G. He just happens to be doing it with lyrics.
“So, it’s not that we turned anything so far on its ear, it’s just most people aren’t used to hearing that type of environment being navigated by this type of voice. For me, it was interesting to take the free-formedness and applying it to a space that is essentially a grid. These tracks can be very limiting on some level, right? But if you listen to this record you also hear so many different layers of things coming in and out [that] it’s hard to even sometimes determine which part is the melody, which part is counterpoint, what the harmony is really even doing. Having the ability to take something that most people perceive as more of a stagnant thing, that’s more built for danceability, and to completely free it up, while still being within the confines of it, that was extremely interesting.”
Listen to ‘Diaspora’ below: