Ancestral Recall (Ropeadope)
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Released March 22, 2019
JazzTimes Top 10 Albums of 2019
Grammy Nominee for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album 2020
AllMusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2019
“All forms of expression in sound are valid, as all people are… this is the mantra of Ancestral Recall.”
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah sets the tone for his new project – Ancestral Recall – with this powerful statement. In his mission to unify cultural voices and tear down the sonic and social constructs that separate based on race, class, and culture, Adjuah asserts music has historically been disseminated to people with harmony and melody prioritized over rhythm. The value distinction leads to harmful hierarchal sentiments and perpetuates the view that cultures who prioritize harmony and melody are more nuanced and sophisticated than those who prioritize rhythm. It is an inaccurate portrayal.
Ancestral Recall looks to excavate and update hidden histories in sound by displaying a sonic tapestry that illuminates the har-melodic movements found within rhythm, rendering previous contexts baseless, Adjuah explains: “In its inception, Ancestral Recall was built as a map to de-colonialize sound; to challenge previously held misconceptions about some cultures of music; to codify a new folkloric tradition and begin the work of creating a national set of rhythms; rhythms rooted in the synergy between West African, First Nation, African Diaspora/Caribbean rhythms and their marriage to rhythmic templates found in trap music, alt-rock, and other modern forms. It is time we created a sound that dispels singular narratives of entire peoples and looks to finally represent the wealth of narratives found throughout the American experience. One that shows that all forms of expression in sound are valid, as all people are.” The goal is to connect people in one understanding rather than dividing them by definition. The music of Ancestral Recall focuses the mind. As the ear adjusts to the shifting tapestries of rhythm, Adjuah stands firm in the mix, heralding the histories of rhythm and song. Walking hand-in-hand with listeners through his and their musical histories, clearing the way for a new reading of what all musical futures can become. Ancestral Recall is an album that might easily be misunderstood in its own time, but will certainly be seen as a moment in history that marked a momentous shift in musical and perhaps social understanding.
1. Her Arrival 04:36
2. I Own the Night (Feat. Saul Williams) 05:01
3. The Shared Stories of Rivals [KEITA] (Feat. Saul Williams) 04:38
4. Forevergirl (Feat. Chris Turner & Mike Larry Draw) 05:37
5. Diviner [Devan] 03:55
6. Overcomer 04:58
7. Songs She Never Heard (Feat. Logan Richardson) 06:04
8. Ritual [Rise of Chief Adjuah] 06:02
9. Prophesy 04:11
10. Before (Feat. Elena Pinderhughes) 06:23
11. Double Consciousness 03:56
12. Ancestral Recall (Feat. Saul Williams) 06:07
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: trumpet, Adjuah trumpet, siren, sirenette, reverse flugelhorn, percussion, synth percussion, SPDSX, malletkat, MPC, keyboards, synth bass, Pan African Kit, drums, vocals, Sonic Arictexture
Saul Williams: vocals (2, 3, 12)
Elena Pinderhughes: flute (1, 5, 10)
Logan Richardson: alto (7 )
Weedie Braimah: percussion, vocals (1, 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 12)
Corey Fonville: drums, SPDSX, Pan African Kit (2, 3, 4, 7, 12)
Lawrence Fields: piano (7, 12)
Kris Funn: bass (4, 7)
Devan Mayfield: vocals (1)
Chris Turner: vocals (4)
Mike Larry Draw: vocals (4)
Themba Mkhatshwa: percussion (1, 2)
Amadou Kouyate: percussion (1, 2)
Munir Zakee Richard: percussion (1, 2)
Recorded April 10, 15; September 6, 20; December 1, 2 of 2018 by Dave Weingarten
Recorded April 29 – 30 of 2018 by Nick Guttmann Produced by Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Executive Producers: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and Louis H. Marks
Mixed by Qmillion
Mastered by Paul Blakemore
Creative Direction: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Creative Direction & Photography: Eric Ryan Anderson
Concept Ideation: Kiel Scott, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Devan Mayfield
Design: Eric Hurtgen
Throughout two decades worth of previous releases, trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah2 has proved to be a master of his horn and an artist of soulfully ignited passions. With this album, the 35-year old multi-instrumentalist from New Orleans should add further accolades to his already sterling reputation.
He defines current endeavors as “a map to de-colonialize sound, to challenge previously held misconceptions about some cultures of music” and applies a self-described “stretch” concept of examination and experimentation to what are basically listed as new harmonic conventions and “forecasting cells” in a quest to create a new soundscape. This project represents another step in that previously uncharted direction (further explanation is available on Scott’s website or social media).
Those hoping for extended segments of Scott aTunde Adjuah soloing on a variant trumpet may be surprised or disappointed how little that instrument is predominant, but he’s supplemented that mouthpiece with multiple other options. Percussive pieces or sampling pads are often the most constantly pronounced instruments on the album. Mixing those devices and other technology with ancient, tribal type rhythm patterns is one of the record’s strengths. “Ritual” is one of the few songs to feature extensive brass, as it continues foundational rhythms from “Her Arrival,” the opening piece. “Forever Girl” is close to a conventional tune but even this rap-based cut is tonally textured into a quilt of patched, percussive pitches.
“Overcomer” is a wind tunnel chant, creating a vocal vortex hymn for what sounds like a church of chorded cohesion and a prime example of Scott’s mission statement about reconstructing established norms. “Double Consciousness,” is a noirish soundtrack that suggests mystery writer Walter Mosley’s detective Easy Rawlins searching for sketches of a Maltese falcon in Spain. “Songs She Never Heard” may be the biggest curveball on this release. The gentle ballad comes very close to your grandfather’s jazz, with some sweet alto sax by Logan Richardson. “Before” is a wind-based excursion captained by flautist Elena Pinderhughes, on a smooth sailing journey along the intersecting horizons of Scott aTunde Adjuah’s horn. Vocalist Saul Williams co-composed four exceptional cuts and contributes powerful, poetic verses throughout.
Scott is credited with playing more than a dozen instruments, and from the sound of things he put each of them to good use on the climactic, title song. Complex beats touch under and across tightly combined chord structures that expand into a rollicking package of varied tonal textures. The multi-layered percussion builds behind an ebb and flow of electronics, vocalized synthetics and supplemental horns in a definite highlight for headphones from start to finish.
Scott aTunde Adjuah has always been musically devoted to what he describes as “sonic architecture.” There are touches of tantalizing trumpet tidbits but he’s just as focused on various keyboard and synthetic effects. With this project he seems to aspire, successfully, to constructing on a different level. Some sections are marginally repetitive, but that’s a standard point of percussion. On the strength of originality alone, Scott and this evolutionary effort stand out. Once again, it sounds like Scott is fully engaged in his commitment and his vision. At times it might be a challenge to keep up with his trailblazing style, but anyone seeking fresh musical territory should find plenty to enjoy here.
Phillip Woolever (All About Jazz)