On the opening weekend of this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney) hosted award-winning American jazz trumpeter, composer, producer, and sonic architect Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah.
Entering the venue tucked away in east London and walking down the busy narrow staircase gave you an immediate, nostalgic jazz club feeling, with sounds coming from the main space courtesy of DJ Anja Ngozi.
Madison McFerrin opened the evening’s live music as the venue steadily filled with people seemingly eager to hear the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter.Performing alone on stage, Madison had the crowd fully engaged as she showcased her music and genre-defying ‘a cappella’ style.
Looping and layering her vocals to create melodies, vocal percussions, and then adding hand-clapping rhythms, Madison performed her 2016 single No Time To Lose, ending the song by having the audience clap along. With offerings of yet-to-be-released album material, Madison’s set was received with great enthusiasm and she’s definitely an artist to look out for with a sound similar to singer-songwriter (and a personal favourite) Amel Larrieux.
After what seemed like the quickest 30-minute interval, a single blast from his trumpet was heard from backstage and Christian Scott and band entered to applause. Drawing on sounds and inspirations from around the world, Scott focuses on creating pieces of music that tell stories while reaffirming the roots of what we know to be jazz.
He’s also constantly pushing the genre into current times and into the future, a trend that’s arguably most prominent on his 2019 album Ancestral Recall. He talks about his passion for this, and not only through his instrumental compositions: he explains his intentions through innocent reflections of equally innocent childhood memories growing up in post-segregated New Orleans. From Afro Native American heritage, Scott spoke of now being a tribe chief and remembering lessons taught to him by his grandfather, who held the title to a number of tribes, serving communities and supporting them through the trials of poverty.
A thoughtful visionary, Scott took time to provoke the audience in questioning inequality from its nearest and furthest corners. His conviction whilst raising topics of gender bias, stereotyping, and others, were inspirational and you could feel the impact throughout the audience with each reference he made.
With a melting pot of musicians, the band consisted of Logan Richardson on saxophone, Lawrence Fields on keys, Corey Fornville on drums, Max Mucha on bass and Weedie Braihah on percussion. Each had a seamless understanding of Scott’s vision, creating a multi-cultural soundscape, blending and enhancing musical elements from around the world, with a heavy West African holding.
Even without that movie score-type guitar riff from the studio recording, bluesy funk-rock influenced track West Of The West stood out for me, as each musician really went in.
More of a gentle offering, Songs She Never Heard was another track to be noted, invoking a percussive, nurturing feeling alongside a sense of both Richardson and Scott engaging in an emotional sit down conversation through their instruments.
Jazz and its complexities can be intimidating to those who favour popular structures, prefer to be led by the lyrics in a song, or feel more comfortable listening to ‘smooth jazz’. But Christian Scott has a way of breaking barriers and widening audiences through his diverse catalogue and live performances, even though he’s very deep and complex as a person and in his compositions.
Though it wasn’t the headline opening show, or festival finale, the rich diversity of Scott’s compositions and the band’s craftsmanship made for an evening of excellence that felt like it encompassed the ideals and themes of EFG London Jazz festival for 2019.
Review and photos by Nosa Malcolm of Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah at EartH as part of EFG London Jazz Festival on Saturday 16th November 2019.