How Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah Is Revolutionizing The Genre Of Jazz

Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Recent Certificate recipient, Heath Pearson, Ph.D. sits down with American Jazz Trumpeter, Christian Scott, to discuss his inspirations, his creative process, and the importance of musically challenging himself.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah is an architect of concepts. His signature Stretch Music, a genre-blind form, allows him to create sonic landscapes across multiple forms of sound, language, thought, and culture. At once, Trap, Alt Rock, World Music. Stretch Music is, as its creator, a collision of ideas and identities. Growing up as an heir to a Legendary Afro-New Orleanian Chieftain amidst the complexities of a racially and economically conflicted New Orleans, Adjuah’s work reflects his sensibilities: analytic, expansive and unafraid to confront the social and political realities of our time head-on.

 


Interview Transcript

(0:00)

Heath Pearon: So, umm, this is part of our podcast series for, umm, the graduate student conference series at the African American Studies Department at Princeton University.

Christian Scott: Ok.

Heath: Umm, and, uhh, the first one we interviewed, we had a, a musician's interview with, umm, Mick Jenkins and Jamila Woods.

Christian: Ok.

Heath: Umm, and then this year, umm, for this conference where we're interviewing you, and then there are a handful of other artists interviewing people that work in other kinds of mediums.

Christian: Oh, cool.

Heath: Umm, so, so, yeah, with with that we'll we'll just go ahead and jump in. If you're on a deserted island, what are the three albums you're taking with you? No question.

Christian: Donald Harrison Junior Indian Blues, umm, for obvious reasons, you know as my uncle trained me, you know, he's gotta put the horn in my mouth, you know? Really, and sort of, umm, you know, he's like a North star from for my, my career as well, you know? And, umm, it's also a record that, umm, features my grandfather's voicing in the traditional music from my culture. 

Heath: Mmm.

Christian: So, you know, I would definitely wanna take that. Umm, I think I would also take umm, that's a really hard, this is, that's hard. I would probably also take Radiohead's King of limbs.

Heath: King of limbs

Christian: Yeah.

Heath: Ok.

Christian: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Umm, as you know that that's one that I kinda go back to a lot, just, [clears throat] you know, listening to what they're doing. It was happening texturally, was going on harmonically, rhythmically, melodically.

Heath: Mmm-hmm.

Christian: As this is something fully fleshed out, incredible album, you know,  umm, and then I think I would probably take, umm, there's a Bjork album called Vespertine.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: That I think I would probably also take because of the, the culture of how they're actually recording, and It’s so interesting to me. And so I think for the Ear Candy of it, then I would probably take that.

Heath: OK.

Christian: Yeah.

Heath: All right. Umm, what television show would you have to stream on a deserted island?

Christian: That I have to stream? Ohhh, you know,

(2:00)

the thing is, I'm not really, umm, an avid television. [ laughter]

Heath: Ok.

Christian: Viewer watcher, you know, ohhh, you know, my schedule doesn't really permit me to do so. So.

Heath: Oh, that’s ok.

Christian: Anytime, period though, I'm this is fun for any time period or like today's television shows.

Heath: Any time period?

Christian: Any time period. Umm, It’s sure was hell would be The Cosby Show. [laughter] Ohh, Let's see, where would it be? Umm, that's actually a really, really great question. Umm, I think umm, you know, I think for two reasons. Some, one, side of this because I, umm, I I've always appreciated him and, umm, liked the dialogue in this show, and obviously they will always brings on very captivating, umm, characters to kinda speak about what's going on in, in our republic. So, umm, I would probably say I would choose like Bill Maher.

Heath: All right.

Christian: Coz I, I know I would always be, umm you know, coz there are moments where you watch it, where you're, you're completely, umm you know, immersed in this, this, this world where, you know, people are actually being logical and, you know, in their appraisal of what folks are enduring in this country. But there are also moments that completely incensed me as a human being as well. [laughter]

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: So, I think, oh, I think to have a good balance and also to have something that clearly has a really high entertainment value.

Heath: Mmm-hmm.

Christian: And even if I wasn't around, if I was deserted, if I could get the updates of that show and know what's going on, [laughter] that actually might be deeply frustrating if I can't really do anything about it, if I'm on an island. But,ummm, but I think it would be, probably be Bill Maher’s umm--

Heath: All right.

Christian: Yeah, definitely. And if not Bill Maher, it would have been The Tavis Smiley Show.

Heath: Okay.

Christian: Yeah, for, for the similar reasons.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: Very similar reasons. Yeah.

Heath: So the the chair of our department, Professor Eddie Glaudes, was on Bill Maher's show last week.

Christian: Ok. Ok.

Heath: So, if you caught that. 

(4:00) 

Christian: Oh, you know what? I didn't know, I was on the road. [laughter] OK.

Heath: Check that out some time. [laughter]

Christian: I got to check that out. All right. Wow, that's funny. Small world.

Heath: Yeah. Umm, Ok, then on that island, Cheetos or Doritos?

Christian: Cheetos or Doritos? Cheetos.

Heath: All right.

Christian: Yeah.

Heath: And finally, on that island, section 80, Good Kid Maad City.

Christian: Yeah.

Heath: To Pimp a Butterfly or DAMN?

Christian: Ummm.

Heath: If you get to for your fourth album that you and Kendrick.

Christian: That's hard.  Umm, I always like that track of Rigamortis. Yeah, I think, umm. But I,I think I probably would do, umm, To Pimp a Butterfly.

Heath: All right.

Christian: Yeah.

Heath: Great. Well, let's get off the deserted island.

Christian: OK, nice.

Heath: Umm, so umm, in, in the African-American studies department, umm, we're taught from, you know, Cornell, West and Eddie Glaude, any time period, the people that really teach our foundational courses that we have to understand the lineages we choose to belong to. 

Christian: Mmm-hmm.

Heath: And not just understand those lineages, but sit with them, read them over and over and over and over again. Fall asleep with their ideas bouncing around in our heads and in our souls. So tell me about the people, the artists, the musicians, the authors whose lineage you, you see yourself in, whose, you know, words or creations have expanded your horizons. And maybe whose, whose, whose creations you just returned to, find yourself returning to over and over again?

Christian: You know, I, I think, umm, there's a lot of meat on that bone. And I, I think there are a lot of folks that, umm, I've been fortunate enough to, to have people expose me to or discovering my own spaces. And, and folks that, you know, like you just mentioned, Doctor West, who is, who has also been sort of a north star for me and a lot of ways. And, you know, we have a relationship and I've, my trumpet mouthpieces on his desk next to what I'm told, next to John Coltrane, saxophone mouthpiece.

And so, you know, I've known him 

(6:00)

 for years and he's actually introduced to me, umm, by Tavis Smiley.

Heath: Ok.

Christian: And, umm, so, you know, he's obviously one. For some reason, I think I gravitate to, umm you know, some poets and writers.

Heath: Mmm-hmm.

Christian: I owe them a lot. Umm, I think, umm, for, for someone that's maybe a little bit younger, Saul Williams is definitely a, umm, he's achieved to me, you know?

Heath: Ok.

Christian: His energy, I think, umm, would it, how, how eloquently he can encapsulate, umm, the the the sort of, umm, trials and, umm, underpinnings of the things that we go through in this country, umm, and how beautifully he articulates, umm, promise and hope. You know? Umm, also Baldwin is also, you know, huge in my life.

Umm, you know, Audre Lorde, you know, Sister Angela Davis was also I'm fortunate enough to to see every now that loves my music. And so that, you know, obviously is gonna make you freak out. 

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: So, you know, and, and you just wanna know everything there is to know. It's like, you know, in some of these situations, like I've you know, there was fandom. And then I actually met the people in these characters, you know, many of whom I just mentioned of personal relationships with them. And that, umm, and, you know, it's, it's a reason they’re who they are.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: And would they emit. It's just you know, there's, there’s nothing else really like that, you know?

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: And, umm you know, when she enters into a room, you are clearly in the presence of royalty. It’s even if you didn't wanna feel that or if you're on the, you know, the opposite side of the, the political spectrum, which, you know, to me, obviously, that does exist. But, you know, if you're actually thinking about how one should treat a person, you should never be on the other side from her to me. 

Umm, but even if that's, that's your feeling when you're around her energy, you are immediately aware of the fact that too vibrationally, she's levitating 

(8:00)

comparatively, you know. And so, umm, those sort of folks have definitely umm, I, I enjoy my life because of, because of reading them. 

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: I enjoy my life because of their proximity to, to, to me, you know?

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: Umm, you know, in, in, in my growth, not so much personal proximity, but in terms of, you know, what their works have actually done to, to, umm, to change my thinking.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: And, umm you know, I'm not a person that believes everything that they think. And, umm, I'm in a constant state of reevaluating the things that I think and feel.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: And, umm you know, my Angelo's like that as well to me, Ralph Ellison is like that as well. You know, these, these are you know, but I'm speaking more from my cult, if you will.

Heath: Right.

Christian: You know?

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: Coz those are the ones that have had probably the largest impact on me.

Heath: Ok.

Christian: You know, I mean, we can also talk about Campbell or Hegel and these folks, too, you know? [laughter]

Heath: Yeah.

Christian:  But, but you know, I'm really speaking to things that have impacted me in a, in a much closer space.

Heath: Right.

Christian: Umm, musically, in terms of legacies, you know, I think Louis Armstrong doesn't get enough credit. Here was a guy that was essentially tossed out. You know, this is a person that was, umm, supposed to be a throwaway. Umm, that helped build and create one of the most beautiful legacies in sound that has ever existed, right? You know, I was recently having a conversation with a friend that was talking about, you know, how some folks in our culture have maligned. Other people are, their elders as being samples or you know, coones and these type of pejorative terms and negative terms, Uncle Toms and that sort of stuff, for maybe lack of understanding. And I remember as a young person, younger person reading something that went Marcella's sat where he labeled Louis Armstrong like that.

And, umm you know, I used to get the Downbeat magazine and Jazziz magazine all the time. My grandfather was an avid collector in everything. And I remember reading an interview in Downbeat, where they were asking pops 

(10:00)

about, what it took and how difficult it was for him to go against Eisenhauer? And for him not to be an ambassador to this country unless they let the little, little boys and little girls that were trying to go to little, to school in Little Rock, Little Rock Nine go to school. And to me, I mean, you know, there's nothing more, I don't know the word that I'm looking for, but non-Tomish. We're gonna make a word up. Then, then going up against the president, United States and saying that actually, you're wrong and I abhor what you're doing and what you're not doing.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: You know? And that you have to make a change if you actually want us to be a part of this tapestry. And so, so, you know, I don't think Louis Armstrong gets enough credit. So I definitely see myself in his lie. Or, you know, I'm just gonna deal with trumpet players coz that I'm trying to be as specific as possible. Definitely. Dizzy Gillespie, obviously, you know, for his, umm, mastery and not just command of the instrument, but he really is the father of so many of the voices. You know, umm, he's the guy that, that you know, people credit to him and Charlie Parker with creating be-bop. But I think it's, it’s sort of, he's widely regarded as the person that taught the world the form, right?  And so I think as, umm, as a student of sound, you know, especially in this context. Dizzy Gillespie is obviously going to be very high up on the list.

And then Miles Davis, because Miles was the guy that was willing to always challenge himself to find something new, you know, I, I once heard an interview where, umm,  Mr. Jarrett, Keith Jarrett, great piano, umm, legend, was saying, you know, he was in the band with Miles and an era where they were doing rock stuff or kinda experimenting. And, umm, one night, Miles was really, really sick. And he went to him. He said, “Do you know why I don't play ballads anymore?”  And obviously, in that moment, this is still a person that could play anything. Still have full command of, you know, he was at the height of his powers. And so Keith says even if he knew, he would have asked. So he said, “Well, no, why's that, Miles?”  And he said, “Because I love ballads so much.” 

(12:01)

And, you know, I think, you know, there, there's a lot that said about what makes a great artist. Umm, but I think if a person that get back and walk away from the emotive and maybe cathartic value in their own music to make sure that they're communicating something that is actually accurate for the time, umm, I think that that is, umm, I think that's the heaviest level that you can get to in this music.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: Right? Because it's, it's not about you, right? It's about you actually seeing that, you know, how you fit in to this tapestry is that, you know, how you fit into this tapestry is more important, you know, the communicative value of how you fit into this tapestry is more important than just your sentiments and ideas being, umm, projected onto others, you know?

Heath: Uh-mmm. Yeah.

Christian: I've learned through my life and also through playing music that the best way to communicate is to listen. Period, right? And so my life's experiences have sho-, shown me that. You know, and I think your reactions are going to be better. Umm, the things that you're going to intimate some people after truly listening are going to probably be clearer. So, umm, I think Miles Davis musically is, umm sort of, the epitome of that, that concept. And I think for, for my life as a, you know, I happened to play the trumpet. [laughter]

You know, I really like it. People think that I'm a very good trumpet player. But it, you know, it's really just a conduit to, to sort of, express what I'm seeing and hearing. And so I don't really think of myself as, like, a trumpet player, but, but it’s just kind, kind of trying to frame it for what you're asking that, you know, those three guys.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: Umm, you know, I think it would be very hard to find, umm. Actually there is one more person I'd like to add.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: Two more people. Sorry.

Heath: No, no--

Christian: Just it you know, if I'm, if I'm giving, umm, an accurate snapshot, well, it’s almost a Snapchat. [laughter] 

(14:01)

 Oh, well, the era’s is crazy. Snapshot into, umm, the, the, the templates that I grabbed.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: Umm, to try and create a sort of comprehensive approach to, to, to my music and sound and artistry and all these things. I think I would also say, Jimmy Hendrix.

Heath: Ok.

Christian: Because of, umm. Yeah, just because of how valued and brave he was. And, you know, there's also something about not giving a fuck that's important. Some spaces when, when, when, when things have to be said and no one saying them. That's a really important thing. And I think sonically, musically, you know, in terms of his fashion and his cares, you could, you could clearly see that he did care. But when, when, when his guitar was in his hand and something else turned on and, umm, then the last but never least would probably be John Coltrane.

Heath: Ok.

Christian: Umm, because of, umm, I think, the, umm, the the metaphysical sort of spiritual aspect, vibrational energetic aspect of his playing. And, umm, being able to harness and focus that, I think, umm. I think, you know, in addition to what I said about, umm, Miles, I think that's also one of the highest levels that you can get to too. Is that, umm you know, a person that can play something that actually makes you tap into your ancestral recalls. Powerful man. So, so, you know, those are probably my five points.

Heath: OK.

Christian: And Mingus, coz he also was real as hell.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: Yeah.

[Laughter]

Heath: Definitely. So that's, umm you know, I'm, I'm, I'm from rural Indiana.

Christian: Ok, where, whereabouts in Indiana?

Heath: MaryAnn.

Christian: MaryAnn. Ok.

Heath: So. You know, the very famous, umm, picture of that strange fruit.

Christian: Ok.

Heath: Was based on with.

Christian: OK.

Heath: A man.

Christian: Oh, my gosh.

Heath: One man looking into the camera.

Christian: Yeah. That’s right. Oh, my God. That's my hometown. 

Heath: Jesus Christ. Yeah.

Christian: I grew up around it. You know, 20 minute walk from that spot. Oh, man.

Heath: I was 

Christian: Wow! It has to be a heavy energy to walk grow up.

(15:59)

Heath: It is. 

Christian: Yeah.

Heath: And I had this crazy experience because I could literally ride my bike a mile and a half in one direction and be in the middle of Cornfields.

Christian: Yep.

Heath: And I could ride my, my, my bike a mile and a half in the other direction and be Hoop In.

Christian: Right.

Heath: Which is what we do in MaryAnn.

Christian: Right. That looks as Indiana. [laughter]

Heath: And I had this crazy intersectional, kinda, come up.

Christian: Yeah.

Heath: Where I also was across the street from federal housing. And, and you know, my parents didn't go to college. And so I had this weird gonna come up where I was, and jazz found me through Louis Armstrong.

Christian: OK.

Heath: As a little kid.

Christian: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Heath: In, umm, in rural Indiana, umm, being spoken to by, by, by his horn really.

Christian: Right.

Heath: And, you know, I, I then found Miles Davis and I just kinda camped out there for a really long time.

Christian: Yeah, makes sense. That's a good place to camp.

Heath: And I didn’t know that could come up.

Christian: Right.

Heath: Any more contemporary until you actually.

Christian: Oh, cool. That’s really sweet. Thank you.

Heath: Umm, your album right before Stretch.

Christian: Person until Adjuah?

Heath: Ahuh. Just, umm, it was, like, grab my soul.

Christian: Oh, man. Thank you.

Heath: I was sad, you know, jazz is, umm, up to something within.

Christian: Yeah. Oh, cool. That’s cool.

Heath: I don't want to say again.

Christian: Yeah, but I understand.

Heath: Jazz is up to something that you might.

So, as really, umm, interesting that, that your lineages has, you see your lineage and it's something that I, kinda like, happened my way through accidentally with. No, no one else listen to jazz.

(17:30)

Christian: Got you, Gosh. I understand

Heath: I just, I just trying to create, dig in and threat. You know?

Christian: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, of course.

Heath: Umm, so. So. Yeah. That's really, that's really exciting.

And I guess then jumping in right there, umm, over the last seven or eight years, your albums have reflected a transformation, umm kinda, not just in the sounds that you're creating in with your horn or in the sounds that you're assembling. I see you as this kinda architect of sound.

Christian: Definitely. Yeah, yeah.

Heath: As well as a person creating.

Christian: That's, like, more of how I think of myself. I mean, it's like, like I say, like I happen to play the trumpet,

(17:60)

 the pipe or whatever.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: But, umm, I view myself as a sonic architect. I want to get into every level of the sound. Yeah.

Heath: Yeah. So then, so then thinking in that, talk to me just about how along that transformation your name has also changed over time or, or at least the representation of your name.

Christian: Sure.

Heath: In songs and albums. And how, how does that relate to your--

Christian: That's really good. That’s a great question.

Heath: As an artist and now as.

Christian: Yeah.

Heath: What you're creating. How you're presenting yourself to those of us that?

Christian: Yeah. I think I'm kind of, you know, I think all people, sort of, go through this, umm, whether or not they're aware of the fact that that's happening or not as different, you know, some people are. Some people aren't. And I think everybody is constantly in a state of becoming. And, umm you know, I try and wake up every day and, sort of, umm, re-evaluate, umm, what I'm evolving into.

Heath: Mmm-hmm. 

Christian: And, umm you know, that, that comes with some pretty polarized reactions. To hitting oh, you know what's happened the preceding day. 

Heath: Yeah. Yeah.

Christian: And, umm, and, you know, so. So there, you know, there's some days, there's some days you wake up and, umm you know, you might think you were completely in the wrong space, and that you had to try to make some changes, and the other days where you wake up, you say, well, maybe I might be on the right path. I think musically challenging myself and doing that is really important because I, I, I realized that the things that we're creating in this moment now are going to speak to this time, and that people that are not around now are going to be listening for that, to hear. 

Heath: Mmm-hmm.

Christian: Umm you know, to hear those things. But I think, umm, in terms of how that relates to my name as sort of a similar thing, you know, I go back and forth, you know, and actually this is maybe the first time I've ever said this in an interview. But, you know, it's a very. You're going to meet a considerable amount of resistance have your D Western has your name in this country. And, umm you know, it's, it's, it's funny because it depends where I met what people call me.

Heath: Okay.

Christian: And, umm you know, if I'm in New Orleans, you know,

(19:60) 

obviously, I grew up there, so a lot of my elders call me Christian, umm, the younger kids and stuff that, you know, know about, you know, how I grew up in my uncle and my grandfather and everything, a lot of them call me Chief.

Heath: Ok.

Christian: All right? Oddly enough, actually, I found, well, coz my grandfather was a chief, Bible Donaldson chief. And I was just coordinated as chief last year, about a year and a half ago.

Heath: Ok.

Christian: And, umm, so in, in, in New Orleans, you know, for the black Indian chiefs, you know, when you see them, you usually call them chief. What was weird about that was when I started playing with the Miles Electric Band, which I had Vince Wilburn Junior's band, great, amazing drummer. He's Miles Davis, his nephew. 

Heath: Wow.

Christian: And the band is comprised of all Miles Davis alumni. And then he's, he sort of, umm, taps and grabs some of the, the greater trumpeters of the day to, kind of, fill the spot, you know, umm, to play as Miles in different moments. And, you know, I've done some really extensive touring with them and really, you know, love those guys and the Bobby Irwin junior. And these guys are like, you know, I've been fans of since I was a kid, you know, much of these guys. And, and they’re my elders. But when we're hanging out or we're playing music, we would be hanging out and, umm, they will call me Chief, but they're not New Orleanian.

And so, one day I, I asked to say, well, you know, obviously, you know, it's, it's not a bad thing to be called, you know, I don't. Some people may joke by call us Quincy AG or maybe, but I didn't. The energy of it was a positive. So, you know, one day I asked and, umm, Mr. Irwin told me, he said, ”That's what they call Miles, Chief.” He said, “Everybody called him Chief. And he's like, you know, we got a lot of guys that play in his band. But when you come in, you know, it's a very specific energy. So we all call you Chief.”  Which was, you know, that for me, I, you know, I think as you know, it's like just one of those moments you go through in your or my life made me deeply emotional, because of its proximity to Miles. But.

Heath: And with your people that was with Miles. [crosstalk]

Christian: Oh, my God. Yes. And I like [ crosstalk]

Heath: That would indicate that [crosstalk]

Christian: That's right. Exactly. These are guys. These. This is his.

(21:59)

These were men that were in his bands in different areas. All of them. And so a lot of my friends that I play with, you know, around town here, you know, they call me Christian. But the people that are closest to me call me Adjuah.

Heath: Ok.

Christian: So, you know, I, I, I don't want my children to, umm for, for, for a Scott to be their last name, umm, you know, I always had completed my name that I didn't change my name because of my proximity to my father or my grandfather, you know, God rest his soul. Like, I love them deeply. And I was gifted the name from them.

And, umm, certainly people know the name Scott because of my contribution and not whoever, you know, pressed my forebears. So it's not this or the negative sort of components to that are not quite as heavy as they would be in certain context.

Heath: Right.

Christian: Because I love my father. And he gave me the name Scott, which is his name, which is why I go by Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, umm but I, I, I think in the coming years, I'm probably just going to go by Adjuah. And that's what my children are gonna be called.

Heath: Adjuah.

Christian: Adjuah.

Heath: Mm-mm. All right.

Christian: Because this is, you know, and also in that tradition, black Indian tradition in New Orleans, you know, you usually just, you call the chief either by his first name or his last name. And, umm you know, my, my, my friends back home in New Orleans, you know, calling someone big chief Christian doesn't really ring so well. Also, because of the cultural.

Heath: Yeah. Yeah.

Christian: Christian, you know, my name has a very specific meaning. And, umm you know, it means someone as a believer in the teachings of Christ, but not necessarily that he existed, which is really weird, just like does small differentiation between being a Christopher or Kristof and these sort of things. But also, like I, umm, I am fond of a lot of the things that are written in the Abrahamic religions.

So Abrahamic religions. So I don't have a problem being named Christian, but. But as it relates to like the most culturally significant moment in my life, it's not how I would prefer to be called.

Heath: Ok.

Christian: So Adjuah is my preference, yeah.

(24:00)

Heath: Adjuah, ok. Thanks for, thanks for sharing.

Christian: That’s all good. You've got the inside baseball coz no one knows any of this. [laughter]

[crosstalk] And I never really, you know people, I think a lot of people, I think a lot of people avoid the question asking me about my name because they know it can be, you know, so charge. You know, this is.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: That's, you know, when I did that, when that first happened, that was, you know, it was like I was persona non grata in pretty much every space.

I could think of--

Heath: Really? 

Christian: Magazines weren't fucking with me. You know, the writers had a lot of problems with it. You know, there were people that were coming to shows and they were highly upset. You know, we've had people throw things on the bandstand. Folks start fights with us. Yeah, we have had death threats behind this shit. 

Heath: Really?

Christian: Yeah.

Heath: Certain areas?  Where it was? Outside the country or?--

Christian: Yeah. St. Louis or St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis, Missouri.

We had two, two, two death separate trips. There was a lot that went down there. They were very upset.

Heath: Wow.

Christian: Which is kinda funny because, you know, that's where the Dred Scott case took place.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: [ laughter] So it was, you know. Dred Scott, you know, I guess there was a, there was a lot of meaning a weight to that there.[laughter] Yeah.

Heath: Wow

Christian: Yeah.

Heath: Yeah. So I guess then going right there. Umm, you know, talk about what it's like to be chief in New Orleans.

Christian: Yeah.

Heath: I had my first opportunity two months ago. I went down and I got to be there on a Super--super-- there.

Christian: Oh, So you saw the Pow wow.

Heath: I went out into the streets and, you know, got some riot juice and walked around [laughter].

Christian: You did have really experience.

Heath: Really just, umm, just spent hours out on the streets trying to take in everything I could hear and smell and see.

Christian: [laughter] And I'm sure you smelled all the smells.

Heath: I smelled all the smells. Yeah. Umm, but tell me what it's like to, to come into that after that being so, so deeply ingrained as, as you were coming up as, as a--

Christian: Well.

Heath: As a trumpet player and then stepping into that.

Christian: Yes, it's , umm. Well, I have a lot more experience being, umm,

(25:59)

what's called in our culture in English as Bible. Which is, like, when the tribes are meeting each other. Umm, he's sort of the reconnaissance person.

Heath: Ok.

Christian: He's the person that sort of scouting around. He's really the hunter. He's the person that's taught from a very young age to be able to like refine the ability to be able to smell whether or not another tribe is upwind W and downwind W and he's listening for the running drums.

So they're hunters, right? There's a culture that starts in the seventeen teens in Louisiana. And a lot of the tenets of the culture actually come from not just southeast Louisiana native culture, but bits predominantly actually have aged transplanted, West African masquerading tradition and culture, right?

And so, you know, I grew up in my uncle's, umm, regime. I’m as a scout. I mean, my grandfather's regime as a scout. First, umm, you know, I think the first time I wore the ceremonial regales four or five years old.

Heath: Ok.

Christian: And so I saw that, you know, my grandfather, he’s a great chief. He was a chief of four different tribal banners. And then my uncle Donald has a banner. And I have a cousin named Brian, who's my elder buddy, who also leads a banner. So they're, they're, they're, the chief, their mother system is set up in a very specific way. And I am a young chief, right?

Heath: Ok.

Christian: Right so, umm so, there is a hierarchical structure amongst the chiefs as well. Like, obviously, my uncle is my elder. I ran as his scout when a spy boy. And you use that term for many years or as I did my grandfather. So but I watch them, sort of, like I stand there and that sort of revelry and legend that existed around them, is very different than what I enjoy as a younger chief, right?  And it's also, you know, there are different factions in the culture. So, there are some in the culture that are aware of my ascension from a spy boy. But there are other people in the culture that have absolutely no idea that I had it.

Heath: Right.

Christian: So they see me on the street in New Orleans and they'll say, “Spy boy,” and I said “Shawa,” but because they don't know. So most of my experiences with it are starting to be formulated now coz it's such a new thing, you know. But I,I think in terms of the reverence that the people in the city

(28:00)

hold for you when you have a sense of that position, I don't think there's anything like that in this country because you don't, you, you don't actually have tribal structures within the city limits of municipalities anywhere else.

Heath: Right.

Christian: [ laughter] You feel me? So that's a very specific, umm, that's a very specific walk. You know, I hope someday people will look at me as a great chief.

I think because of, umm, my accomplishments in music, there's a certain amount of notoriety and, umm, reverence that my culture has for me. Umm, but I am, umm, just starting out, umm, my walk in that.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: So it's there's not a lot of meat on the bone in my experience to be a chief yet.

Heath: Yeah, yeah.

Christian: I feel so new.

Heath: That's, that's great. That's exciting. So then tell me a little bit about Stretch music.

Christian: Ok.

Heath: Because, umm, two years ago when we had the first version of this conference, umm, I kicked the conference off, umm, by giving a short talk and asking “Can we all together in this space approach our intellectual work like stretch music?”

Christian: Oh, wow. That’s beautiful.

Heath: And I said “Coz this is stretch music for anyone who isn't familiar.” I said “Stretch music invites the listener to stretch out, to pause what you should know or what you come to expect and to stretch your ears to the music, to stretch your soul, to the vibrations that are created when material struggle meets New Orleans. Jazz. Radiohead. Sonic Attack.”

Christian: Right, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Heath: A little creativity needs collective celebration. Needs to quote you in an old interview. Motherfucker's just playing in their neighborhood.

Christian: Right. [ laughter] That’s funny.

Heath: I’m trying to develop an intellectual analytic based on your, your musical.

Christian: Yeah. A conception of music and sounds.

Heath: Conception that you, that you're putting out there. So talk to me is, is what you're doing now. You see that's still a continuation of the coronation of Stretch music. 

(30:00)

 A few albums ago or was that a shift for you? How do you see that?

Christian: Well, the the concept now is definitely a continuation of that. What are we, we call it. Now we're calling it what we're specifically doing, recalling.

Heath: Recalling.

Christian: So the next record is, is called Ancestral Recall and, umm, it sort of takes his stretch music acumen but turns it around. So, you know, if I were to give the way that we've kinda sort of encapsulated the stretch music, umm, the original, umm, concept was that what we were attempting to do was to create a genre blind way of acculturating all of the vernacular and music into a creative improviser jazz context.

Heath: A genre blind way.

Christian: Yeah. Yeah. So. So, so, OK. So. So there's there's a lot there. [ laughter] So. So traditionally the way that music is disseminated to people, umm, is broken up by cult. And what we don't talk about is, why that exists in the frame, umm, that that started.

Heath: With boundaries.

Christian: Yeah. So. So you look at, umm, let's say, umm, blues and jazz like that. It's sort of the root of a tree. Well, the first extension of that, when they started to heavily market music to people, obviously the gramophone became a really a powerful tool, was the predecessor to rhythm and blues music and the predecessor to rock and roll music was called race music, right?

Heath: Hmmm.

Christian: So, the first-- the first real bump in terms of how they disseminated music to people was actually carted off and basically sort of self-segregated. 

Heath: Segregated.

Christian: You get that?

Heath: Yeah, yeah. 

Christian: In terms of how they were marketing and disseminating the music. So, all of the cultures of music that you see today are extensions of that philosophy. When I-- if I ask you to visualize a hip-hop musician and then I ask you to visualize a Western classical musician and then I ask you to visualize 

(31:60)

a sole-solero.

Heath: Uh-huh.

Christian: --you see the cultures. 

Heath: Uh-huh. 

Christian: You see race, it's highly race alliance.

Heath: Producing race itself. 

Christian: Yes, it is producing race. And so part of what we do in music is we are attempting to decolonialize music, right? Because a lot of the ideas that are held about cultures of music are belittling and pejorative ideas that are based in racial stereotypes, right?

Heath: Uh-huh. 

Christian: So, traditionally, we covet and value music that has a harmonic or melodic-- uh, the harmonic and melodic and tendencies of music are heightened like western classical music, but we usually malign cultures that are more rhythmic as being bass, right?

Heath: Uh-mm. 

Christian: Let's really break that down. 

Heath: Uh-huh. 

Christian: Right? Let's actually really--

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: Talk about that, right? There's harmony in rhythm. Have you gone to Senegal or Gambia and hear a line of um, of, uh, a royal courts drummers playing at a cone dense ceremony in Guinea? You can hear the harmony moving through what the drummers are doing and they know exactly what's going on. So, to, to, to, to conclude that that is less sophisticated than something that is being written in the well-tempered system is also observed because this system only has 12 notes. It's like saying the Indian ragas are less sophisticated than a form of music that has less notes because their system is based in quarter tones. So more notes more permutations of notes, more sophisticated and some ways-- this is just a counter argument, this is not my belief. 

Heath: Right, right. 

Christian: Right? So I don't think any form of music is more valid than another because that's like saying well a group of people are more valid than another, right?

Heath: Uh-hmm, uh-hmm. 

Christian: So when I say what we're attempting to do is create a genre blind mode of operating a music it's really to also talk about visually blind. 

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: Right? And to say that are you born in Ireland or you're born in Senegal or you're born in Tanzania or, uh, in Indonesia, your ability to communicate through music is not less valid because of geog-- the 

(34:00)

 geographical location on a cultural space that you were born into. 

Heath: Right. 

Christian: Right? But all of that has been done to, to enthrone into a creative improvised context or a jazz context. 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: Right? Recalling, what we're doing in this moment is an extension of stretching, that has more to do with you actually grabbing the ancestral sounds of, of, of your community or your particular cult and grabbing those and trying to pull those into this concept as well. 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: So, in, in other words, uh, stretching was looking to grab all of these different cultures of music and throw them into a creative improvised context. Recalling is essentially doing the same thing but grabbing the older core music--

Heath: Uh-hmm.

Christian: And bringing, and trying to heighten that--

Heath: Uh-hmm.

Christian: --but also doing it in a way where we're turning it on his ear. So as opposed to throwing these forms of music into jazz, now we're throwing the more creative improvised music thing into the other cultures. 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: Right? But part of the next record is sort of designed to do that in a very modern way. So, the jazz of it is becoming a little less important in terms of the improvised con-- aspect of it. But it's going into more like a, for a lack of a better term, and also timing, think of it as a more Kanye West production acumen, samples and all of these different things that highly, you know, we're talking about the electronics but not so much analog, stuff, right?

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: But taking things that come from those older spaces but disseminating them to you in a way where-- uh, that you're more comfortable in this moment listening to. 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: And as an example, if someone walks into a club and they put on like a Babatunde record. It's all this tonal drum-- drumming, they're gonna immediately hear that as dated. But if I sample the same thing and then play that back for them, they're gonna be like "Wow, this is incredible!" Right? Exactly. 

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: And have a different-- the texture is going to be different. So, recalling is sort of, uh, it's like the, the stretch music concept in reverse.

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: And we're not going to jazz, now jazz is going to the other spaces. 

(36:00) 

Heath: That's beautiful. 

Christian: Right?

Heath: And you're even recalling some of your own--

Christian: Oh, yeah. 

Heath: some of your older records--

Christian: Oh, man. Ugh. 

Heath: -- and bringing them, right?

Christian: Exactly, right? Exactly. It's a very cool, um, it's very cool to play with that concept. 

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: But in terms of the overall idea with stretch music is part-- it's like what we said before. The best way to communicate is to listen. Stretch music is the sound of listening. It's a sound that says-- it's a sound that says even though I may disagree with your viewpoint, I'm still going to hear it out because it's valid. 

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: I may not honor it.

Heath: Yeah.

Christian: Because you might be saying something or emitting something that may be highly bigoted, you know?

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: Like I don't honor fourty five's viewpoint,

Heath: Right. 

Christian: A lot of times. But I'm going to listen to it because this is a-- obviously, I mean he's ascended to where he's ascended but this is also an American person and his perspective should matter to me. We are neighbors, right?

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: That doesn't mean I agree with it but it should be heard out just like mine should be heard out, right?

Heath: Right. 

Christian: And so I think that as a conceptual through-line has created some really beautiful music but has also created a lot of tension.

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: And a lot of in-fighting in my culture. 

Heath: Okay. 

Christian: Do you what I mean?

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: Um, you know, there's some don't like that. Some people like to hold on to the notion that jazz-- you can make a very strong argument and certainly a musical argument is arguably the most sophisticated music that has existed on this planet. Period. What takes-- what you could say-- what takes other cultures of music sitting down at a piano with a sheet of music paper for hours scratching their brain to do, this guy can do in an instant, and if you change anything in the environment behind them, they have the ability to be able to process that and immediately continue to instantaneously compose, right?

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: And as a collective, so there's a very sophisticated, um, mechanism that's going on. Folks that come from that space and that cult do not in 

(38:00)

some instances do not want that muddied with other cultures. But a lot of that also comes from the fact that historically this also still a group of people that have basically been painting it with one brush or maligned or marginalized and seen as non-valid.

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: Even though they could hear their musical contribution in Phoenix are on such a high level. Do you know what I mean?

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: So it's a very complicated thing in that community-- in my community. And so, so there are folks that are completely on board with it but there are also folks that abhor what it is that we're bringing to the table because we're essentially saying that all people are valid, which some people, you know, I--I've-- it is very rare to meet a person that is preoccupied with wanting people to be equal to them. It's more likely that you'll meet a person that is preoccupied with wanting to be better than other people. That's been my experience. I'm a 35-year-old man. I'm not guessing at that. It's the truth. It's what I see. So I think, you know, jazz musicians are no different and that they feel that way in some moments, right?

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: And so it was this much something that was needed musically and I think energetically for people, stretch music, but it's also something that I felt could-- could heal the community of musicians that were harboring some pretty pejorative ideas of other cultures of music. 

Heath: Uhm, amazing. So, in-- right in line with that, so talk to me about the track Respond on your new album R and R--

Christian: Okay. 

Heath: Do you say R and R, is now, R and R equals now?

Christian: [chuckles] I mean, the thing is we're in the band and we-- everyone says something different. 

Heath: Okay, so--

Christian: It's like R and R, R plus R.

Heath: Yeah. Okay, So, you know, what or who are you responding to? And in light of that, this is part of what I think has given me or has brought me to the place where I-- I-- I sit and listen to jazz in the same way that I sit and read Baldwin over and over, sit with this. And so, what does it mean to respond to a response? What does it mean 

(40:00)

that responding to a response even emits, right, this--this-- just this political moment where everything seems ratcheted up and intensified in the world that we know? And how-- you know, jazz is in the world I'm responding to that and yet is responding to responses to responses, right--

Christian: Right. 

Heath: There's something there that's like all we ever hear is how are you gonna respond to what Trump said to this--

Christian: Right. 

Heath: How are you gonna respond to what they did this? And and jazz sits down and says we're gonna respond to a response to a response. We're gonna create and otherwise in this moment. 

Christian: I wonder, you know, the thing is, I think um, I think it's-- I think we should be clear also that he's also responding, right? And that, you know, part of the issue that we're going through in this moment is like we're acting like this is the new thing: Trump.

Heath: That's right. 

Christian: It's a Kazaam! Oh, he came out of nowhere. No, he didn't. That was certainly built and is certainly in line with the historic values of this place.

Heath: That's right.

Christian: 'Cause Trump is not-- this is not. 

Heath: Not an aberration.

Christian: He's not at all. That's not by accident. Are you paying attention to what this-- what this is built, how people interact with each other, The moments they love each other, the moments they choose not to love each other. He makes complete sense to me. 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: And sometimes you end up getting the leaders you deserve and that you've earned. Yeah, I don't like it. It makes me upset, you know, when I think of some of the things this person does. This is, this is a person that gave the thumbs up to put children in cages. Obviously looking the way I do, coming from the culture that I do, that's gonna be a scary thing for me because I realize that I'm not far from that, right?

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: My children are not-- when they come here will not be far from that, right?

Heath: Right. 

Christian: If someone's willing to put that person's kid in a cage then what's the difference between their child and mine? And so, the responding thing is, is complicated because 

(42:01)

you know you also live in an environment where you can have your life taken away from you very easily. Isn't that, you know-- so, not everyone-- you know, but based on what you said, you grew up around, I know you know what I'm talking about, you know?

Heath: Yup.

Christian: That can happen very quickly. You blink you can miss it. So, the stakes are high. If you don't respond it could mean-- it could mean your children's futures. It's you know-- and there have been generations of us that have responded I think really appropriately to what they were seeing and it was a stimuli at that moment, and, and even after getting the appropriate response and living and dying and fighting for those things, still ended up being in scenarios where their children ended up enduring horrible things. 

Heath: Uh-hmm.

Christian: So, you know, the responding aspect of it is I don't think that's ever going to stop. The thing is that we do need take a moment and take a half step back and have an accurate appraisal of where those things came from the Hollywood built, you know?

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: You know? 

Heath: Yeah. That's-- yeah-- I really like and appreciate your insistence that, you know, Trump was a response himself, right? 

Christian: Yeah. If there's no Obama, there's no Trump. 

Heath: I mean, that's-- that's what--

Christian: There's no way this-- this person would have ended up being assented to the seat that he did if he haven't been preceded by who he preceded by. 

Heath: That's right. 

Christian: That's a direct reaction to that. And what's actually more heartbreaking than that is tribalism has gotten so-- it's inundated the bloodline of this country to the degree that now you're-- you're actually picking people purely based on that idea. 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: Even in inter-- uh, racial tribalism. Hilary Clinton was uh, uh-- you know, some people might, they may not be in line with all of our politics but this is certainly a person that had the acumen to be able to do the job and may have been one of the 

(44:01)

 highly-- highest, um, in terms of her pedigree, um person to go to the seat, maybe, you know, Herbert Walker Bush might have been a little more qualified since he ran the CIA, but--

Heath: [laughs]

Christian: But I'm just saying-- if you look-- if you look at most of the people that are going up for that position, she's one of the most qualified, right?

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: But, you know, but there's interracial tribalism. Clearly, intersex tribalism, right? You know, I-- I-- I ask people this all the time and I think it's important food for thought, you know, we live in a country where women and men do the same job, a woman and a man does the same job, a woman gets paid less than a man to do the same job, you've never seen a group of guys talking about that. Why? Because they don't care. So here's what weird to me. You find a woman, you need her, you love her, you say she's most radiant, captivated, formidable, beautiful person that you've ever met. You wake up every morning, wanting to comfort her and love her. You say you're gonna protect her. Someone comes down an alley with a knife, you're all too willing to be Mr. Macho Man for her but when it comes to your ability to make sure that she has the ability to feed you and your children the same as you, you don't show up and vote for her. So if I can expect you to protect your wife's interest then how can I expect you to protect others?

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: So, think about the degree of tribalism that you have when you won't protect your wife's interest. So, yeah, you know, there's--there's a lot here that needs to be responded to and re-evaluated. 

Heath: Uh-hmm. And so, this is one of my favorite of your jazz solos in the last, you know-- that--

Christian: On Respond?

Heath: What you do in Respond. 

Christian: You know, it's funny though because it's like--

Heath: I mean, the first time I heard it--

Christian: I'm just responding to Derrick. 

Heath: That's what--

Christian: Yeah, you know, that's what was going on. Well, it's funny because--

Heath: And you hear him right at the beginning. 

Christian: Oh, man.

Heath: He said, "Here we got... whoop." 

Christian: Yup.

Heath: It's almost as if he can tell your solo is about to do some--

Christian: It's about to go-- 

(46:00)

yeah, yeah. It's interesting because it's like-- the, the song, the shape of the melody comes from a song of mine called The Coronation of x aTunde Adjuah which is on the Ruler Rebel record, so the shape of the melody is essentially the same but what he's putting under it. And so, you know who was great about making that record is I don't think we did two takes of anything. Like we just-- we just kinda, you know they said the mics were on and we would just start. So we would start. And, um, in that moment when we recorded that, that session hadn't started. We were just, um, testing the mics, and, uh, not everyone was even in the studio yet. We were just testing the mics. And, um, I started to play and Derrick started to, and Justin is kind of following the vibe and, and, and, and, and then he opened up on in just turned to this thing and we just filled it out. But, but it was literally me, uh, kind of coating my older melody and then Derrick puts up a really interesting under it and I was like okay those two things-- those two components have to be something 'cause they, they, they blend together so well. You know, Derek is um definitely, he is the greatest all-around musician that I have ever met in my life, and you know--

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: I played with Prince. 

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian:  [laughs] You know what I mean, I've been in those dynamics and also [crosstalks] Yeah! But Derrick is--

Heath: Wow. 

Christian: Yeah, by long, by long space too, [laughs] yeah he's you know, I can play eight barres or something, completely unrelated things, rhythms are crazy and different and Derrick can hear that one time and write the whole thing out. It's-- it's one of the most amazing skills as an acumen that has ever been around.

Heath: Wow. 

Christian: And it couldn't-- that gift couldn't belong to a more warm and beautiful person. He's one of the most beautiful people I've ever met in my life. So, yeah, I'm very grateful for him. 

Heath: Oh, that's-- 

(48:00)

that's amazing. 

Christian: Yeah. 

Heath: So, I have two questions. 

Christian: Yup.

Heath: If you have time for two more.

Christian: Yeah, yeah. 

Heath: I wanna respect your--

Christian: It's all good. 

Heath: Umm, so, you know, continuing then here where you were um-- you were just talking about in a moment that we're in and what jazz can bring to this moment. Um, when we look back, kind of over the last 70 or 80 years of jazz, um, we can see that, that during moments of kind of extreme creative flourishing, they're often happening during moments of--

Christian: Yeah, turmoil. 

Heath: Like social, political-economic intensification. Even though all of that is consistent, right through line of racism, sexism, placism. But, but when those things kind of become manifest in a public-- in a new way, um, uh, it seems like jazz is there to be responding. 

Christian: Right. 

Heath: And so you know you have at least I think in the last 18 months, a trilogy--

Christian: Uh-hmm. 

Heath: A collaborative album, a few collaborative singles--

Christian: Uh-hmm. 

Heath: Probably other stuff that I have missed-

Christian: That's alright. 

Heath: And-- and-- and many other musicians--

Christian: I think you got it all.

Heath: In jazz, are also producing just incredible amounts of work--

Christian: Yeah. 

Heath: We have Kamasi--

Christian: Yeah, 

Heath: [inaudible]

Christian: Yeah.

Heath: [inaudible] we think of just Terrace, and what he's like--

Christian: Right. 

Heath: All these guys just producing--

Christian: All the time, yeah. 

Heath: So-- so, talk to me about your music in relation exactly to this moment in the world and maybe how do you relate to creating music in this moment you're-- you're--

Christian: Yeah. 

Heath: Bringing this in. And-- and-- and do you have any-- do you envision at all like how-- how you imagine your music grabbing people, relating to people in-- in-- in the world where we are. 

Christian: Yeah, I mean, I think it's about creating courage. 

Heath: Uhmm. 

Christian: 

(50:00)

I think that's what the music is based on. I think that's what's going on from multiple musicians, you know? And, um, you know, being willing to speak to the things that they see and, you know, if you got to-- if you have to walk through, if you had to walk on hot coals to get to where you need to get to or you get to crawl on glass to get to where you need to get to, you see people going through that every day in their daily lives. So-- so, now it's the time to do that because now is when they're hurting, right?

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: I think, um, I think, um, a lot of musicians are very sensitive to what people endure, you know? And, um, I think that sensitivity creates, um, a lot of-- I think it creates a lot of feelings, uh--

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: And I think people that are emoting more usually have a higher output. 

Heath: Uh-hmm.

Christian: So, you know, I think on the outrun level, someone might look at me or a guy like Terrace Martin or Derrick Hodge or even Robert and folks that are in this new group, they say there's a bunch of, you know, 6 foot black men, you know, kind of have carriage of champs, you know, and you know, and they conclude about who we are and how we are and you know we are probably one of the most deeply sensitive--

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: And, um, concerned people that you would actually ever meet, right? Because we don't enjoy lives where we can pass our concerns off or ignore them because they actually affect us. [laughs] You know what I'm saying?

Heath: Yeah, yeah.

Christian: So that, you know, that's a completely different energy, um, and I think when you're in a constant state of that, you know you're going to probably use the resources that you have available to you to express the fact that you have a concern--

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: And I think a lot of it is based on creating courage. 

Heath: Creating courage. 

Christian: Yeah, you know it's different like when I first 

(52:00)

 you know, if you go back and you look back on my earlier records, you know like the Anthem in 2007 and Yesterday You Said Tomorrow in 2010, in those moments, you know, I have a lot of my friends who are great musicians, legendary younger musicians and now are just like, you know, and when I was making a lot of that music-- a lot of my music is about social and political and cultural ills and things that are going wrong, and, um, it was-- I was on an island. [laughs] It was just me for many years. 

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: And, um, and obviously would [inaudible] my name and also became an extra added thing on that well, it's just like-- you know? I was sort of being maligned as being like the angry trumpeter and I'm not-- anyone that knows me knows I'm a goofball, you know, like the angry thing is not-- that's actually not really there. I'm just honest about what I'm seeing. 

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: And-- and I think that honesty, in turn, makes people think I'm upset because what I'm seeing is terrible, right?

Heath: Yeah, yeah. 

Christian: So, in those moments, you know, I was sort of on an island, but, you know, around 2014, 2015,  that's when people started to kind of wake up to that, even with the term "woke". 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: You know, it's like people sort of there's an awakening that happened. And then it seemed like-- a lot of folks-- even folks that have called me in the earlier days would be like, "What are you doing? Why would you say that? Don't write a music about that. Don't say Ku Klux in this department. They're gonna--" you know, and a lot of that was based in their fear for me and their love for me--

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: I don't know. I wasn't-- I never admonished anyone for telling me that 'cause I understood, you know, I understand that mechanism and also how that mechanism is built especially for my culture--

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: You're conditioned to police yourself so that you don't, um, anger white gays for a lack of a better way of putting it. 

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: Um, but I think as you know more people started to get killed and social media thing put that broadcast to that at a very high level, I think, um-- I think people's feelings and thoughts changed.

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: And now we're enjoying a moment where everyone is being political pretty much. It's difficult for me to think of any artist that plays creative improvised music or jazz music at a very high level that doesn't have a political, uh, um, uh, you know, attitude about what it is that they're doing, you know? It doesn't matter if you're talking about, um, you know, other trumpeters like Ambrose and Tione or Sean Jones or if you're talking about other pianist, like Rob which is you know his music is turning that way, Jason Moran, I was very much like that. Um, you know, so Brian Blade, you know all of the drummers are definitely there, always champs, you know drummers are like--

Heath: [chuckles]

Christian: You know, because they know  they can knock you out too. They are a very specific cares to get their rhythms. I grew up boxing so I like, you know, teasing the drummers. [chuckles] [inaudible]

Heath: [laughs]

Christian: You know, so, you know, we go back and forth but they get-- they are probably the ones that have the most fervor in our culture. 

Heath: Right, okay.

Christian: But that's historically too. Elton John was [inaudible] those sort of guy didn't take any shade. So, you know, you-- you see that the courage has been created, and now the younger kids that are growing up and coming into this music, they're playing this music they don't feel like they have to have a muscle on it on being censored. 

Heath:  Uh-hmm. 

Christian: When I was growing up and playing this music, it certainly was being censored. 

Heath: Uh-hmm. Even in New Orleans. 

Christian: Whaaat? Especially in New Orleans. 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: You know, at that moment what was popular was neoclassical style in playing. That was, you know, the '80s, the guys that came into power in the '80s, you know, [inaudible] sort of marred with people sort of viewing them as being a recapitulation of the past times and basically pantomiming the contribution of that processes. In this moment obviously, as someone that has lived long enough, I appreciate their contribution and don't believe that about what they did-- 

(56:01) 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: But sonically, there is a very large argument that you can make that that is what happened. Um, but a big part of that was also, you know, trying to create a frame and codify the music in a way that you can just walk up here and say you are playing jazz if you had no pedigree in that actually dealt with the history of the music. 

Heath: Dealing with its own kind of genealogy and traditions, know from where it was. 

Christian: Yeah, I mean, there's a canon that you should know-- 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: Uh, you know, obviously stretch music platform as it says that all people making sound are valid because all people making anything are valid. But, at the end of the day if you say that you're doing something that comes from a specific culture, you should probably know the tenets of that culture. 

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: Period. 

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: That's for anything that we do. Even if you're a basket wea-- if you're a basket weaver. 

Heath: Right. 

Christian: You know, you might come across some revolutionary basket weaving shit, but whatever you're saying I weave baskets then people probably have an expectation that you understand it.

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: It's part of the history of basket. 

Heath: Yeah. [chuckles]  Alright. So, last question, the theme of the conference is Black Impossible. 

Christian: Impossible.

Heath: Black Impossible. Talk to me about what Black Impossible might mean to you putting those words together. 

Christian: I don't know. I mean, well, that is complicated. Both of those words are complicated. You know, I am not a person that believes in impossibility as a concept, you know?

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: At some point, people said to be able to cut marble in this way are-- you know, ] to be able to create light was impossible, right? So, it's-- I don't think anything is impossible. I think you know for a lack of a better way of putting I'm not a terribly religious person. I'm a person that grew up, um, in a household where you were made to, to, to sort of check out the tenets of all, as many religious parts as you could--

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: So I was-- you know,

(58:01)

 when I was small I had to read about the Darwist, and learn about the Zoroastrianism, all these different things. That's what my grandfather, the Chief, is into, you know? And so I think, you know, there's clearly something different about human beings, you know, to everything else here, you know, that doesn't mean better but definitely different. Um, the necessity that created all of the things that we created comes from somewhere and I think a lot of that stems from challenging this notion of what is and isn't possible.

Heath: Uhmm. 

Christian: Whether or not that's something that's divinely inspired or not. We have that, you know? You know, when I was small, there used to be a guy, you know, who was a, who was a-- he was-- he was from the nation of Islam. He was in my neighborhood. He used to make fun of me 'cause my name was Christian. [chuckles] And I would see him in the morning and he would say, "What's up, Islam?" [chuckles] I'll be like, roll my eyes up, but he would always say that, um, that God was the creativity of man and that we all were essentially that, because of your ability to be able to create. When I was, you know, in school in Boston, I would visit my friend Louis Fouche, a great alto player but he has a degree in chemical engineering and physics and I would go with him to MIT, and these kids would create entire ecosystems with bacteria that grew into these. And this is like tech-- I am sitting here looking at what is essentially a new species of animal. 

Heath: Uh-hmm.

Christian: Do you get what I mean?

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: And so after 17 you're all from Oshkosh, Wisconsin can do that. 

Heath: Right. 

Christian: You know they're not-- I think it's a safe conjecture that there's other things that can do that. 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: And so I think that--that--that notion of what is and isn't possible, I think man is always gonna challenge that. So when you say Black Impossible, you know, I-- I-- it sort of ties into all of that to me 

(60:01)

 you know?

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: I don't think, you know, I personally subscribe to the feeling that, you know, we enjoy a moment right now where, uh, we buy into the social construct, race that was created. That's a construct that's used to control people's behavior. Race doesn't exist. There's only one race; Homosapien sapien. That's it, right? We all know that at some point we all started together and we're in the same place. 

Heath: Uh-hmm.

Christian: And so, [clears throat] being culturally black is one thing, but actually being bad doesn't exist, right? 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: And so, I think, um, when I hear Black Impossible, you know, the first thing that I think is that, you know, that doesn't-- the black thing does and doesn't really exist, so that's always weird to hear. I'm giving you my honest answer. 

Heath: Yeah. 

Christian: So, that's a weird thing to pref-- to put in front of impossible. 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: Um, to me-- but when I hear it, really what it makes me think of was the fact that there's nothing that's impossible to people, right? 'Cause I'm personally prescribed to the philosophy that, you know, all people are warm, the first type of people are black, so they're all that, if you wanna get that specific. We're all that. It's just we look different because geographic isolation. One group of people went to this place and got trapped there for generations and the weather just doing something so their bodies adapted to the weather, doesn't actually make them different in terms of how, you know, they're actually good. 

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: You know what I mean? I was reading something recently that said the mitochondrial information that's a requisite for every different type of person exist and it only exists in black women. So it's a kind of an interesting thing is the concept that the mother of all of that.

Heath: Uh-hmm. 

Christian: Right? But I think all of 

(62:01)

 um, humanity stems from one space and-- but we've accepted this idea, this social construct because it allows us to create hierarchical systems that either empower or impress. And like I said before most people aren't terribly concerned with being equal. 

Heath: Yeah, that's right. Well, that's, uh--

Christian: I hope that's, uh, you know, uh, suitable answer. Some people may be a little bit angry about that on nerves but [whispers] get over it. 

Heath: [laughs] Um, well, thank you so much for the time. 

Christian: No, this interview is so great. 

Heath: Oh, man. 

Christian: This is honestly the best interview I've had in months. Like, you know, most interviews I get, they are always asking me the exact same questions that I always get, and it's like if you read the last 20 interviews, you didn't have to-- you know, we wouldn't have to do this.

Heath: Would just get to--

Christian: But everything you asked me was different. 

Heath: Oh, good, man. 

[END]

 

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