Christian Scott Stretches Jazz in Ruler Rebel

by Ayanna Jacobs-El

I first learned of trumpeter, composer, and producer Christian Scott (also known as Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah) from my mother in 2007. She heard an NPR story about his sophomore album called Anthem and told me that his music had a modern sound that blended jazz, rock, and hip-hop. Anthem paid homage to Scott’s hometown of New Orleans and the songs on the album were crafted in order to evoke the mood and realities of New Orleans in its post-Hurricane Katrina devastation. I was intrigued so I bought his album from iTunes and was very blown away by his complex composition style and gorgeous trumpet tone. While listening to Anthem, I was introduced to the trumpet technique that Scott developed called the whisper tone. This method of playing allows a soft and breathy sound to be produced rather than the bright and piercing tone most of us are used to. Scott’s haunting and intimate trumpet playing over the moody and beautifully written songs of Anthem drew me in and were played on replay for many months.

On March 31st, Berklee Alumni Christian Scott released Ruler Rebel, which is the first in a three-album series called The Centennial Trilogy. Scott’s three-album series commemorates the centennial anniversary of the first commercial jazz recordings of the New Orleans’ Original Dixieland Jazz Band from 1917. According to Scott’s bandcamp album description, The Centennial Trilogy is, “a sobering re-evaluation of the social-political realities of the world through sound.” The trilogy will cover a wide variety of issues that are still prevalent in modern society such as: “Slavery in America via the Prison Industrial Complex, Food Insecurity, Xenophobia, Immigration, Climate Change, Sexual Orientation, Gender Equality, Fascism and the return of the Demagogue.”

In Ruler Rebel, which was partly recorded in studios at Berklee College of Music, Scott has presented a new musical direction and vision for himself. This new style is a part of the Stretch music approach. This is a newer style of playing jazz that is currently culturally popular and represented by musicians like Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding. According to Scott, the goal of Stretch Music is to attempt, “to stretch—not replace—jazz’s rhythmic, melodic and harmonic conventions to encompass as many musical forms/languages/cultures as we can.”

Scott’s latest album does this perfectly by blending jazz with elements of Trap Music, West African rhythms, and the Afro-Native American musical styles of New Orleans. The pieces on the album feature more prominent production than Scott’s previous works, while still experimenting with form, unique instrumentation, and harmonic capabilities. My favorite song of the album is the title track “Ruler Rebel.” It clearly illustrates the new blended sound that Scott aimed to create and as someone who loves Trap production, I really loved the fat 808s and crisp drums that underlined the jazzy piano and trumpet lines that floated above.

At 31, Christian Scott is the oldest person in his band. He said that the young musicians in his group are fearless team players who put in the work to build something great as a collective. Scott stated that there are many fantastic young musicians who are not team players and he made it clear, to be in a band like his, a musician must, “at a minimum be willing to listen not just waiting to speak.”

I appreciate how Christian is not afraid to speak out about injustice through his music all while being a sound innovator. He is displaying an example of how music can be used to create social change and appeal to people of all ages and races. As Scott has displayed time and time again, there are no limits to his musical vision and he will continue to pave the way for the next generation of revolutionary musicians.

HAVE YOU HEARD RULER REBEL? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS!

About the Author

Ayanna Jacobs-El
Ayanna Jacobs-El is a composer, producer, songwriter, singer, alto and baritone saxophonist, and DJ dual majoring in Contemporary Writing and Production and Professional Music with a minor in Writing for TV and New Media. You can learn more about Ayanna and hear her music by visiting www.ayannajacobsel.com.
  • R.h. Brown

    Christian is a very gifted musician, he placed out of virtually all the Berklee core curriculum, was a magna cum laude graduate as I recall, while gigging and experimenting constantly. He is both a very nice person and a fierce, opinionated artist. Love his music.

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