Chief Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah Releases Live Album ‘AXIOM’ with Septet Recorded In March 2020 (ALBUM REVIEW)

The blend of the electronic and the organic on Chief Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah’s studio albums, The Stretch Music concept, certainly piques curiosity about how this septet sounds live. Furthermore, this writer was scheduled to attend one of those March 2020 shows that the virus took away from us. Now with AXIOM, which leverages the success of his critically acclaimed 2019 Ancestral Recall, reviewed on these pages, we have at least the aural answer to the live experience although the visual aspects of the interplay of his septet would undoubtedly be compelling too. Note, only two selections appear here from that album but this is indeed a blistering set showcasing his Stretch Music concept that filled his Centennial Trilogy (see below)  and those dating back to his 2102 self-titled album on Concord— a vision of genre blindness in sound. As for the title, the rather unconventional leader offers, Axioms are essentially postulates from which an abstractly defined structure is based, a statement or proposition which is regarded as self-evidently true…Axioms serve as starting points for further reasoning and arguments. It’s difficult to find a more appropriate correlative to Jazz and Expansive Music… Stretch Music, especially in a Live setting.”

These sessions took place on March 10th, 2020. At that moment, the GRAMMY-nominated was in a familiar place during an unfamiliar circumstance — about to play New York City’s famed Blue Note Jazz Club as COVID-19 uncertainty gripped the world. Determined to stay the course, Chief Adjuah made the decision to press on with the show. Little did he or his band know, this would be their last show for some time. As we continue to review his music, the name grows longer due to his recent coronation as Chieftain and Idi of the Xodokan Nation of New Orleans Black Masking Nations (regionally referred to as Black Indians). 

 His stirring septet features flautist Elena Pinderhughes, GRAMMY-nominated alto saxophonist Alex Han, percussionist Weedie Braimah, Lawrence Fields (piano, keyboards), bassist Kris Funn, and drummer Corey Fonville. The leader plays trumpet, Adjuah Trumpet, sirenette, reverse flugelhorn. It’s a combination of the leader’s engaging, otherworldly sounds, the blend of the front line players, and the driving percussion, especially that of Braimah, that makes the sound of this band unique.  According to Chief Adjuah the live recording is rooted in the intellection of listening as the primary conduit for understanding and narrative in sound, pointedly contrasting the energy and sound design of his studio albums. “There’s a difference between hearing and listening,” says Adjuah. “The intention to understand is present in listening. When you listen to our band, what you are hearing is the sound of listening

When Scott makes his introduction after the first tune, “I Own the Night,” he references “washing hands” and “not sneezing,” very aware of the virus that’s likely on everyone’s minds. As he’s done on he last several studio albums, he comments on “jazz” as a pejorative term, stating instead that “we have recently crossed into the second century of creative and improvised music and that tonight is a reevaluation of what we’re playing and why we’re playing it. A new relationship has been created…” His words can be a bit intellectually over the top. It’s best to just listen to these talented players, who individually sound like musicians in a jazz unit, but collectively create a far more contemporary approach that blends aspects of what Scott once referred to as “trip hop” with urban conventions, African rhythms, and powerful feelings. Listen to Pinderhughes on “The Last Chieftain” with her beautiful tone and the percolating percussion behind her. The music is transportive.

”Guinevere” appears both in the regular set and as a bonus track, a fusion-like piece with Fields on keyboards and the leader using multiple effects. “Songs She Never Heard” hails from Ancestral Recall and begins with Pinderhughes’ flute floating above a bed of percussion, which later assumes the spotlight along with pianist Fields and the leader. The fiveyear old “Sunrise in Beijing” follows, with the band in tight ensemble mode before showcasing the flautist and percussionist. “Huntress” is a gorgeous spacey, synth backed tune composed by his mother, emblematic of the power, the beauty, and resilience of New Orleans women. Chief Adjuah takes the sparkling lead on “Incarnation” while Fields comps on Rhodes, Pinderhughes steps in, and the Chief fades out to the bubbling percussion.

”West of the West,’ another electronics laced piece, was written after a short-lived residence at a locale in Los Angeles and becomes the first vehicle for alto saxophonist Alex Han to makes his sizzling mark on the proceedings. Han takes another incendiary excursion on the 16 plus minute bonus track, “The Last Chieftain.” “Diaspora,” the title of an album in the trilogy, follows with its flowing melodic, tribal-like grooves acoustically, punctuated by Fields, Pinderhughes, and varied percussive sounds, all contributing to a joyous, triumphant vibe.

 AXIOM is Adjuah’s third live album, the previous two being Live at Newport released in 2008 and Ninety Miles Live at Cubadisco (with Stefon Harris and David Sanchez) in 2011. AXIOM, however, it is the first to feature his Stretch Music concept. AXIOM will see a deluxe special edition issued via Bandcamp with bonus tracks available in high quality download and compact disc. The official release date on all digital platforms is August 28, 2020, with a vinyl release set for October 2020.

 In 2017, Adjuah’s released three albums: Ruler Rebel, Diaspora, and The Emancipation Procrastination (collectively titled The Centennial Trilogy). Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first jazz recordings, The Centennial Trilogy is a sonic exploration rooted in a sobering reevaluation of the world’s social and political realities, and their correlatives a century earlier. The Emancipation Procrastination and Ancestral Recall were both nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album at the 61st and 62nd GRAMMY Awards, marking Adjuah’s third nomination. The recordings also garnered the chief a Downbeat Critics Poll Rising Star Composer, Rising Star Trumpet, Trumpeter, and Electric/Jazz-Rock/Contemporary Group/Artist wins from the publication. Ancestral Recall was named to the 2019 Top 20 Glide Jazz Albums as well.

>Chief Adjuah made the right decision to put this live disc out. Somehow it makes his music, often abstract for many, more tangible, more accessible, and eminently more powerful too.


Related Content

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide