christian scott atunde adjuah & saul williams lock horn and words

February 11, 2019

Neither the regal tone of Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s horn nor his elevated outlook on the world and its music were conceived by chance. There are deeply considered layers to pretty much all the art, groove and cultural information that emanates from the 35-year-old New Orleans-born trumpeter; and that certainly includes “Ancestral Recall,” the first drop from his upcoming album by the same name, which features a spoken-vocal by the one and only Saul Williams. A better foil is hard to imagine.        

It’s important to note that Scott aTunde Adjuah is the grandson of the Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr., a legendary figure of the city’s Mardi Gras Indians tribes. (Big Chief, who passed away in ‘98, was named as such for being, uniquely, the chief of three separate tribes; he also founded Guardians of the Flame, a local organization that promotes the afrocentricity of Mardi Gras Indians.) Additionally, Christian is nephew to Donald Harrison, Jr., one of New Orleans’ most acclaimed jazz saxophonists, who’s spent two-decades-plus uniting the city’s Black American and Caribbean roots music with hip-hop and classical, while pushing the tradition sonically forward. Christian has been doing the same, combining the Indians’ community ethics and history, the Big Easy’s classic sound, and the futurist electronics of contemporary dance — and improvisational music. It has led to (without being grandiose about it) a true reimagining of the sound of jazz, as something both traditional and related to Detroit techno.

“Ancestral Recall” falls squarely in line with Christian’s sound and vision, not least because of the addition of Saul Williams, master wordsmith and eminence grise of Afrofuturist aural traditions. With layers of Weedie Braimah and Corey Fonville’s percussion pushing the rhythm, clusters of Laurence Field’s piano flourishing beauty in a desert, and a soft melodic bed courtesy of an electronic chorus, “Recall” sets up an ethnographic ambient groove that could go pretty much anywhere — until Saul and Christian step in to take direct command.

There’s an elemental power in their direction, pure and graceful. “Breath as my hard-drive, sky as my witness,” begins Williams. “There’s no such thing as small spirits, ancestral minorities take breath through nature’s hidden forces.” Meanwhile, aTunde Adjuah’s trumpet’s otherworldly texture peels through the track’s heavy air like a saber — his strong lines countering the words and juxtaposing the beats. “Ancestral Recall” bears all the undeniable hallmarks of Christian’s current music, evidence that the reimagining continues apace.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s new album, Ancestral Recall, is out on March 22 on Rope-a-dope.