On July 14th at Yoshi’s nightspot in Jack London Square in Oakland, California, an inspiring event took place. It was the return of Chief Adjuah (formerly known as Christian Scott) and a cause for celebration. The audience was treated to a mind bending group sound and a warm and gracious host.
The concert opened with Chief Adjuah playing his Chief Adjuah bow, an electrified stringed harp painted bright gold. For the first two songs he played the bow and sang. Impressed by the sound of the bow and his singing the audience became mesmerized. Finally addressing the crowd Chief Adjuah spoke at length about the two previous numbers and introduced all of the members of the band including Elena Pinderhughes on flute, Matthew Stevens on electric guitar, Elé Howell on drums, Kriss Funn on upright bass and Weedie Braimah on djembe, congas and percussion. The enjoyment of playing in a familiar place with a receptive crowd made Chief Adjuah’s job appear quite enjoyable. For the rest of the show each band member took some extended solos. Pinderhughes made some dynamic and shifting contributions throughout the evening. Stevens played some cool solos in harmony with all that was going on and Funn supported all of the band members by supplying the backbone of the music. Braimah added accents to all the various instruments while keeping a solid pulse. When Chief Adjuah picked up one of his trumpets a commanding tone and melodic force permeated the club.
When the set wound down, Chief Adjuah spoke eloquently about each member of the band. He saved the most comments for the drummer, Elé Howell. Chief Adjuah recalled when he played Yoshi’s in the early 2000’s how a 6 year old Howell ran all over the club, getting into the dressing rooms and messing with the instruments. At 6 years of age Howell told Chief Adjuah he wanted to play with the band. At 24 years of age everything has come full circle and Howell is now an official member of the band. Howell certainly made his mark that evening as he energetically played all over the drum kit. Turns out Howell has lately been playing with Ravi Coltrane in his band celebrating the music of John and Alice Coltrane.
An impressive aspect of the show was Chief Adjuah’s wonderful rapport with the audience. He acknowledged the sold out crowd and provided a lot of information about the music and his fellow musicians. His attitude was in direct contrast to some jazz musicians who rarely speak and seem indifferent throughout their performances. He told us about his home in New Orleans and we really got an impression about his life inside and outside of music.
There is an element of looseness in Chief Adjuah’s music. There are heads that the horns, trumpet and flute play, which form the basis for conscious exploration. Then the music enters uncharted territory winding through multiple paths. Chief Adjuah demonstrates his love of the sounds by moving/dancing and occasionally playing a tambourine. There is an unforced jam band feel to the proceedings where the soloing is equitable and truly involved.
The warmth that Chief Adjuah displayed in mid-July struck a beautiful chord with each person in the club. He did not pander to the audience, his asides were informative and necessary. Not only did we leave with memorable music in our ears, he had a message as well. He reminded us that we can’t put the burden of fixing things (democracy, politics, injustice) on the young folk, we need to fix things ourselves.
About Chief Adjuah
Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah [formerly Christian Scott] is a two-time Edison Award-Winning, six-time Grammy Award-Nominated sonic architect, trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, designer of innovative technologies and musical instruments (Adjuah Trumpet, Siren, Sirenette, and Chief Adjuah Bow, Chief Adjuah’s N’Goni), Founder and CEO of the Stretch Music app company and record label, the face of the first-ever BMW XM starring in BMW’s campaign of commercials commemorating the release of the new vehicle. And is the crowned Chieftain and OBA of the Xodokan Nation of the maroon tribes of New Orleans. He is the grandson of legendary Big Chief Donald Harrison Sr., and the nephew of jazz innovator and legendary saxophonist-composer, NEA Jazz Master Big Chief Donald Harrison, Jr.
Since 2001 Adjuah has released thirteen critically acclaimed studio recordings, four live albums, and one greatest hits collection. According to NPR, Adjuah “Ushers in a new era of Jazz”. He has also been heralded by JazzTimes Magazine as “Jazz’s young style God.” and “ He is known for developing the harmonic convention known as the “forecasting cell” for his use of an un-voiced tone in his playing, emphasizing breath over vibration at the mouthpiece known as the whisper technique. Adjuah is also regarded as the progenitor of “Stretch Music,” a jazz-rooted, genre-blind musical form that attempts to “stretch” jazz’s rhythmic, melodic and harmonic conventions to encompass multiple musical forms, languages, and cultures. His innovations have garnering a PBS American Masters short “The New Chief”, JAZZFM’s Innovator/Innovation of the Year Award, Jazz Journalist Association Trumpeter of the year, The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, The Paul Ackett Award, Echo: Deutscher Musikpreis, Induction into the inaugural constituency of the Black Genius Brain Trust, a host of Downbeat Magazine’s Critics and Readers Poll’s wins for Best Composer, Best Trumpet, and Best Electric Jazz-Rock Contemporary Group, and The Changing Worlds Peace Maker Award.
YouTube Video – Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah
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