Diaspora, the second album of trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s Centennial Trilogy of albums he’s releasing this year, is softer than its predecessor, Ruler Rebel. It’s warmer, more somber, more spacey a collection of songs, as if these songs and the extra time between notes, a less is more approach here, is meant to depict the actual African Diaspora, a dispersal of sounds as much as a people. Nevertheless, it’s a more chill kind of album, if the dynamic Ruler Rebel is a textured shot of mescal, Diaspora is the perfectly made michelada that follows it, and you’re going to want to have a couple more micheladas.
In this same creative period, considering these songs were recorded in the same April 2016 sessions as the previous trilogy entry, Scott has that same ethereal quality of ’80s Miles here, with sweetly contorted horn sounds from his self-designed siren, sirenette, reverse flugelhorn, and an assortment of electronic touches. The dialed-down tones here seems to allow for a warmer, less frantic pace– so less frantic that there are two “interludes” on this album, one just over two minutes, the other just at three, which is a stretch to call compositions so fully formed “interludes”. They convey a full idea as much as the other nine songs here. Hell, Lawrence Fields’ “Bae” goes kinda hard with Corey Fonville and Joe Dyson’s breaking percussion bouncing about ever interestingly as if this were a Dilla tune over Fields’ looping melody on the piano. Songs like these capture and enrapture ears in two minutes, so much could be said for the cascade of sounds of “Lawless” or the sweet serenade of “Completely” or the feel that “No Love” is at times as equally comparable to both Ghostface Killah and, oddly, Chris Botti (yeah, I said it!). Scott has noted over the years that what he and his compatriots make is Stretch music, a melding of assorted genre influences to Stretch their ideas beyond their preconceived capacities. These ideals continue here in Diaspora, finding coolheadedness in this hodgepodge, as turning down the temperature was the move to get all the ingredients to simmer down into the perfect stew.
By now, Scott’s band is even more the well-oiled machine, or perhaps more organic parts of a body in motion, than ever before. Cliff Hines’ electric effects on guitar provide a soft blanket of sound that is crucial to this downtempo feel here, his influence much more apparent on Diaspora than Ruler Rebel due to this album’s softer direction than its precursor, and Hines’ chiller vibes on these songs are more conducive to that. The dual drumming from Corey Fonville and Joe Dyson continues to be a perfect combination now three albums running, this time with Weedie Braimah on djembe, bata, & congas and Chief Shaka Shaka on dununba, sangban & kenikeni thrown into this mix on the opening title track and the sprightly “New Jack Bounce (Interlude)”. Elena Pinderhughes’ flute continues to lift this group to new heights, steadily becoming a fixture in Scott’s sound. And as always, there’s Kris Funn on bass, giving 110%, performing beyond expectations, coming in for the necessary rebounds and staying supportive in the triangle formation.
It is in this dispersal that Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah harkens that he notes how a spreading of a people will engender a spreading of inspirations and a melding of identities. It’s about finding an equilibrium in the midst of a traumatic experience. For years, Scott’s albums have played to peaks and valleys, so it’s nice to hear this kind of spacing play out in longform, finding a whole album of calm in the middle of a uproarious high of Ruler Rebel and likely the impending The Emancipation Procrastination. This one’s a crowd pleaser, but don’t dare call it pleasant. Nothing about a Diaspora is pleasant, it just is, and a people do what they can to persist through it, redefining what they must call home and ever changing what exactly the products of what that home is.
Diaspora, the second album of trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s Centennial Trilogy, is out June 23rd on Ropeadope Records. You can pre-order it now.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Trumpet, Siren, Sirenette, Reverse Flugelhorn, SPD-SX, Sampling & Sonic Architecture
Elena Pinderhughes – Flute (tracks 1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 11)
Lawrence Fields – Piano, Fender Rhodes (tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11)
Kris Funn – Bass (tracks 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11)
Cliff Hines – Guitar (tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 10)
Corey Fonville – Drums, SPD-SX (tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 6, 7, 10, 11)
Joe Dyson Jr. – Pan African Drums, SPD-SX (tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11)
Weedie Braimah – Djembe, Bata, Congas (tracks 1 & 9)
Chief Shaka Shaka – Dununba, Sangban, Kenikeni (tracks 1 & 9)
Special Guest: Sarah Elizabeth Charles – Vocals (track 11)
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.