London Jazz Festival Interview with Christian aTunde Adjuah

This interview took place during The London Jazz Festival, 2015

Although being compared to one of jazz music’s finest is a great accolade, after speaking to Christian he seems to be determined to set his own set of rules – regardless of what the ‘jazz police’ as he refers to them as, have to say.

The day before the interview I go to see Christian and his band play at the London Jazz Festival. After he introduces the audience to his band, he introduces two very important guests – his trumpets, both unique in design, they’re named after his mother and girlfriend Isadora, who he then plays a song about – it’s beautiful, as the few jazz songs I’ve heard written about women seem to be. He ends the show with a performance of a song he says is based on his experience of being pulled over and harassed by two police officers – the song is aptly titled Klu Klux Police Department.



What does the title of your latest album ‘Yesterday You Said Tomorrow’ refer to?

Well, it refers to a lot actually. The title in essence is about change; it’s about accepting your responsibilities and when you say you’re supposed to do something – doing it. I feel that as a culture, the world culture, we’re kind of at an impasse right now. The world has to change now, and if it doesn’t it’s not going to last very long. I don’t think, in a capacity of where people are going to want to be a part of it – that’s my opinion.

I think every little while we have these instances. Like another era that was like that was in the 60’s – the world had to change. The only problem I see with that dynamic is in the ways that the world was changed and the things that were moved in the right direction eventually kind of got washed away and corroded into being in the wrong direc-tion again – so we’re kind of stuck back at square one saying “OK, how do we make this situation better for other people?”. So for me the title is more or less about accepting your role as a human being….and saying “OK, I don’t live here by myself, so I’m going to try and live this experience better for other people as well.”


I noticed your twin brother is credited for the photography in your album. How was that experience?

We’re incredibly close, you know – when I work with him…. my brother’s a film director, he just completed a film called The Roe Effect, it won maybe 9 or 10 Film Festival Awards in America, one being the HBO Film Festival, The ABFF, even at the UrbanWorld Film Festival. His film was also screened at the Cannes Film Festival, so he’s a very talented film director – so I enjoy working with him, making scores to his films. 

When we’re taking pictures for the record cover, that’s easy – he knows what I want to look like. It’s like no work, so that’s always fun. The harder work is when we work on the films, just because you have to convey a sentiment through music and through a visual medium – that’s harder than just being like “Ok don’t move!” But it’s cool.


Can you talk some more about your rendition of Thom Yorke’s ‘Erasure’

I just liked the song. I heard it and thought it was dope. So it was like let’s try and put a spin on it – make it feel different. I like Thom Yorke’s writing, I think he’s one of this generation’s greatest musi-cians and resources, so I thought it would be cool to attack one of his songs and check out how it ended up. 

I actually ended up working with his band. He has a group called Atoms for Peace, and he did a tour in America and I went out and sat in with them on a number of days so we got a chance to kick it and talk about the music – he’s an incredibly talented cat.

Your visual and playing style are quite unique, how do you feel those elements have evolved over time?

I think it depends on what the day is. Some days I’m like “I like what this looks like,” another day I may say “Oh my God, this is awful I’m never doing that again” – music is like that too. I like to take risks, I like what fashion says – it’s one of the few things you can use to change who you are;  Because it’s interesting to see how people will react to me depending on how I’m dressed, because inside of the clothes you always get the same dude. You know what I mean; the things that bother me are the same, but to see people’s reactions – for me it’s an interesting sort of social experiment to see.

One of the things I’m into…. is if I dress like a  Diaspora African – which is what I am, you get reacted to in one way, but if I put a suit and tie on then it’s a totally different thing and it’s just interest-ing when I watch how people move around me depending on what I wear. Music is the same – some days I like some songs and some days I hate them, but it’s always a process. The fun part is going through the process of developing them into something new. I remember there was one gig I did where I wore four shirts, and the shit was dope! And then I looked at pic-tures of it and was like “this is not dope”…man, 6 months later I looked at them like “damn that’s fly!” So it changes. 


How do you deal with ‘jazz purists’ and other comparisons to older jazz musicians?

The thing about it is the reason that The ‘Jazz Police’ and the critics, if they do say negative things – the musicians immediately, all the guys that you’re talking about that are maybe 60, 70, 50 years old – they discredit it if it’s brought to them because they know I’ve been doing this since I was 12 years old and playing in the highest level of band since I was a teenager so they know it’s completely valid.


If you had to create a playlist with artists past and present, who would you pick?

Oh that’s hard…I wouldn’t put a list like that together but if I had to? First let me tell you why I wouldn’t put a list together – I don’t think that anyone’s contribution in art is more valid that anyone else’s. People have choices, they say “well I like this, I like that” – that’s cool, that’s your personal preference, but what I do musically is no more valid than a guy that’s playing music in a subway. Both of us are expressing how we feel – that’s it. But if I was forced to put together a list of musi-cians from now, a Super Band list I would say: Robert Glasper on piano, Jamire Williams to play the drums, I’d have Matthew Stevens play guitar, bass…the bass is a hard one – of course my first choice would be my musicians, but I think culturally I would pick different musicians. 

Saxophone – there’s a guy named Walter Smith that I think is phenomenal, these are all young guys that are coming up now. I think I would be playing trumpet, Stephon Harris would play vibra-phone. The bass is the hardest instrument, because there are bass players that are phenomenal bass players but you would never be able to tell because of the way they play, maybe it doesn’t look like it’s difficult – but I really like Kris Funn, Ben Williams, I love Joe Sanders, I love Luques Curtis. (I’d choose) those guys for this time in music.

If I had to comprise a band of the past I would grab Miles Davis at the trumpet player first, just because he cross different eras and he was the type of guy that was willing to let go, so that didn’t inhibit his art because he was willing to let of what he loved, so I would use Miles. Probably ‘Trane – it’s almost gonna be his band! Miles and ‘Trane, on drums I’d probably have Max Roach, maybe Tony Williams too – that’s hard.

Piano would definitely be either Monk or Herbie, bass would definitely be Charles Mingus without a doubt. On the guitar would be Jimi Hendrix…yeah, I think that’s a pretty good band! It’s hard for me because I could give you a list of 20 other people that are just as great and in different ways – just for my personal preference; those are the guys I would be kickin’ it with.


For more information about Christian Scott and his music check out: