LJF 2019: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah + Madison McFerrin

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Christian Scott aTunde at North Sea 2016. Photo © Brian Payne

This performance added a new level of intensity and spiritual meaning to the EFG London Jazz Festival. It drew a wide demographic of jazz enthusiasts to EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney), an underground space which seemed to provide a somewhat convincing acoustic.

The evening began with a short support set from singer/songwriter Madison McFerrin. With a warm and playful attitude, Madison certainly knew how to interact with a crowd, referring to us as “guinea pigs” for her new material. Her selection of new works was broad and vibrant, featuring a mixture of soulful R&B tracks alongside acapella songs.

Among the crowds, a handful of participants were moving minimally to the music. Madison picked up on this and joined in herself to boost the mood. The highlight for me was her acapella work. As soon as she began, silence spread across the venue. Perhaps recalling her famous father, her execution and ability to pluck pitches out of nowhere was stunning. As the texture built, Madison could let off steam and produce excellence in improvisation.

Only a few minor technical mistakes were made but this was brushed aside by a witty interaction with the audience. Madison was helped by her brother Taylor, who provided the electronic backing tracks.

After a short break, Christian Scott and his talented ensemble took to the stage. Each musician brought their own gifts to the mix. Christian displayed his ability to scream right in the upper register of the trumpet, while Logan Richardson stripped everything back, taking a soulful and meaningful approach.

Christian introduced each band member with a hearty story and brief background that was unique and amusing. One of them concerned djembe aficionado Weedie Braimah, a master of traditional music from West Africa, and how the djembe could exist in modern contexts.

Halfway through the set, the band played Hancock’s Eye Of The Hurricane, which according to Christian was not planned but resulted from fan requests before the gig. Detail, depth and emotion brimmed from Christian and Logan as they gave energetic solos.

I briefly spoke to Christian after the performance thanking him for the evening as well as mentioning I would be reviewing the night. He responded by saying “Whatever you write, just be honest. I don’t mind if you think areas weren’t as good as others, just as long as you tell the people what happened and deliver your opinion – that’s the main thing”. As I walked away from the gig, I couldn’t help but think of what this music really means to Christian Scott. He’s there to make music and not to build up a fan base. It was a spiritual performance interspersed with reflective words and brought an insight into jazz as we know it today.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah band: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (t, reverse flugel, sirenette); Logan Richardson (as); Lawrence Fields (p, kyb); Max Mucha (b); Corey Fornville (d); Weedie Braimah (pc). EartH, Dalston, London, 16 November 2019 as part of EFG London Jazz Festival