Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah performs with his band on NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert. In his preface to “Ku Klux Police Dept.”, Christian talks about his experience with police brutality in New Orleans, where he was born and raised, that nearly took his life.
October 09, 2015 by PATRICK JARENWATTANANON
Artists don’t usually tell long, rambling stories at the Tiny Desk, and if they do, those stories don’t usually make the final cut. But this one felt different. It was about the time Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, a young black man, says he was stopped by New Orleans police late at night for no reason other than to harass and intimidate him. And how his pride almost made him do something ill-advised about it. And how he finally channeled that pent-up frustration into a piece of music whose long-form title is “Ku Klux Police Department.”
“K.K.P.D.” was the emotional peak of the septet’s performance, though it wasn’t a new tune. That’s notable, because Scott stopped by the Tiny Desk on the very day his new album came out. It was played by something of a new band, though: Flutist Elena Pinderhughes, saxophonist Braxton Cook and guitarist Dominic Minix are new, younger additions to the group. It had new textures, too: Drummer Corey Fonville (another new member) used a djembe as a bass drum, and also brought a MIDI pad so he could emulate the sound of a drum machine. The effect was something like an evocation of African roots, juxtaposed with a trap beat.
The first two numbers were, in fact, from Scott’s new album Stretch Music. That’s his name for the particular type of jazz fusion he’s up to: something more seamless than a simple collision of genre signifiers; something whose DNA is already hybridized and freely admits sonic elements which potentially “stretch” jazz’s purported boundaries. (You may note that he showed up in a Joy Division sleeveless T-shirt and gold chain.) It’s sleek and clearly modern, awash in guitar riffs, but also bold and emotionally naked. Scott is particularly good at getting you to feel the energy he sends pulsing through his horn, and he never shies away from going all-in on a solo. The least we could offer was to let him explain himself in doing so.