Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah is a jazz trumpeter, composer, and producer born and raised in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward. Across 14 albums, including the critically acclaimed Centennial Trilogy and Ancestral Recall, Scott aTunde Adjuah has melded an array of instrumentation, rhythm, and harmony from around the world into a unique style of jazz he calls “stretch music.”
His music is featured throughout Floodlines. I sat down to talk with him about his musical inspiration, his thoughts on how New Orleans responded to Hurricane Katrina, and his views on the past and future of life in the city after the flood. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Vann R. Newkirk II: So the first question for me is very basic, and that’s: When did you first start playing music?
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: So I started to play music when I’m 11 years old. I grew up in one of the neighborhoods where this music was born. And so there were a lot of players in my neighborhood. You know, you could pitch a rock and hit a great trumpeter. The mailman was a great trumpeter, you know. So sometimes when I was a kid, I’d be practicing, and he’d show up and he’d say “let me see your horn” and then he’d play “Donna Lee,” which is one of the most sophisticated bebop songs there is. So it was a natural thing for me to want to play the instrument, because this is one of the things that, at least in my city, is one of the spaces that you knew that you were eligible for. You know? You couldn’t tell a kid from my neighborhood that he couldn’t be great or couldn’t be a musician or a trumpeter, because the airport was named after Louis Armstrong. But I started when I was 11. My mother was a classical bassoonist. Most of the people on my maternal line play music. At some point, they have to play music. And my uncle is an alto saxophonist named Donald Harrison Jr. who is a legendary figure in creative improvised music, or jazz music. And so I started to apprentice with him the next year, when I was 12. And then, by the time I was 13, I’d started to tour and play with different bands around New Orleans and then to tour internationally with him.