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Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah at Bandcamp Record Store and Performance Space

John Bricker By

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I am a person that feels that the tradition is to constantly look for new terrain and new vernacular... When I actually look at the history of [jazz], that’s what I see. —Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Bandcamp Record Store and Performance Space
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah Live at Bandcamp
Oakland, CA
June 27, 2019

While his band played "Songs She Never Heard," a piece from his 2019 album Ancestral Recall, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah paced across the stage, shaking a steady groove on his tambourine. When he stopped to lean over pianist Lawrence Fields, Fields looked over his shoulder and smiled back at him. Then Scott grooved over to Weedie Braimah, who beamed while pounding propulsive rhythms on his djembes.

Although he often put aside his signature trumpet, Scott constantly positioned himself as an authority figure on stage, singling out individual members of his band and communicating through aural directions or facial expressions. But his collaborative leadership constantly allowed the band to make dramatic statements through ferocious solos while Scott stood back and let the music unfold. This dynamic is a perfect example of Scott's message of unity through music, which he brought to Oakland's Bandcamp Record Store on June 27 in a free "secret show" orchestrated through a mailing list.

Scott, an Edison Award winner and two-time Grammy nominee, expressed his thanks on stage for the chance to perform at Bandcamp, calling the store and platform "the coolest place to be in the music industry, period." In an interview with All About Jazz after the show, Scott called this performance particularly special compared to other small shows because of Bandcamp's effectiveness, especially compared to other platforms he has seen rise and fall in his almost 23 years professional musicianship. "I was selling records before Napster and iTunes," he said. "I have seen a lot of different environments, but a model like this can actually change the industry."

The Bandcamp Record Store provides fairly modest performance space, with only a small stage in the corner. Before the show, chatter filled the store as a small but diverse group of young and old fans stood shoulder to shoulder, some looking over the minimal shelves of vinyl records for sale while others inspected the turntables set up in nooks against the wall. One small child stood at the front of the crowd, only a foot away from the stage, wearing a colorful set of protective earphones. Scott said that usually the majority of fans at his shows are kids and young adults, and that unlike older audiences, they have a simple hunger for his music. "They are not there because jazz is cool," Scott said. "They are there because they f***ing love the music."

Dominique Sanders' double bass shook the room before Scott and Logan Richardson hit the crowd with the duel trumpet and saxophone melody of the band's first song, "I Own The Night." The audience cheered and applauded after every solo, from Weedie Braimah's djembes and Corey Fonville's blend of acoustic and trap drums, to Scott and Richardson's harsh and frenetic solos that served as the track's centerpiece. While Richardson's solo steadily grew louder and more chaotic, Scott stood still at the center of the stage, shaking his head and grinning.

Fonville's incorporations of electronic drum sounds is an example of "Stretch Music," which Scott called "an attempt at genre-blindness through an actual understanding of the different vernacular and sort of sonic architectural tropes that exist in music." Scott said he does not believe music should be categorized by genre. "Every way that a human being expresses themselves musically is valid because they are valid," Scott said, adding that music within a genre "has to exist in a cannon and a codified set of values that have been created to make sure that it is that." Some jazz traditionalists cannot accept some jazz music as jazz, which Scott called part of the problem with the current generation of jazz. "I am a person that feels that the tradition is to constantly look for new terrain and new vernacular," he said. "When I actually look at the history of the music, that's what I see."

After finishing their second song, the groovy and celebratory "Songs She Never Heard," the band paused for a few minutes while Scott introduced everyone on stage. Some members got surprisingly personal and heartfelt introductions, including pianist Lawrence Fields. Scott described how Fields can work within virtually any musical culture and tradition, and how that reflects his respect and care for those cultures. "He is one of the warmest and kindest people you'll ever meet," Scott said. "And it makes sense that a gift like that is in the hands of a man like him."

Many musicians who have played in Scott's band over the years now have their own thriving groups, and he said the constant experimentation and communication within his band encourages that. "Once musicians are in an environment like that," Scott said. "They are usually unhappy and bored in other ones."

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