There is so much color, intrigue and purpose to everything Christian Scott does musically, you wonder if it’s something to watch him, say, brush his teeth or put on socks. Scott has again made a mockery of the mundane with his fifth studio record, Christian aTunde Adjuah—a brave effort when no one is making double albums. “I think that really just comes out of the fact that most artists are just scared to take that type of leap because they won’t be able to carry it,” he says confidentially. “We don’t think too much about that.” As he spoke, still fresh on his mind was the free show he and his band played in Harlem to celebrate the release of the record at Marcus Samuelsson’s Ginny’s Supper Club, downstairs from his restaurant, Red Rooster. The venue’s decor is deliciously ostentatious. Glitter alone doesn't make a club legendary, but as Scott’s breathy notes pierced the hazy glow of a kind of blue light illuminating the stage—the space felt sacred.
Shortly after playing at Ginny’s—which is just a couple of blocks away from his apartment—the 29-year-old jazz trumpeter flew to Los Angeles for a series of appearances. It was from there that he talked to EBONY.com about the project, Harlem’s new cool, how getting engaged (he’ll wed Isadora Mendez in New Orleans next spring) has impacted his artistry and the unique effect he hopes his many inspirations has on his fans.
EBONY.com: You seemed to really enjoy playing that room in Harlem.
Christian Scott: Man I mean, the great thing about playing clubs in Harlem is people have an appreciation not just for the music but for the history of the music. So, you know, the older people especially, they can tell if whether or not you’re into Louis Armstrong or if you’re into Dizzy Gillespie or Miles Davis—their ears are, like, that deep. As far as the younger audiences, which a vast majority of what we get in Harlem is mostly young people from like eighteen to thirty coming to the club to hang out, sort of more or less to cool out—it’s starting to turn into cool again. Guys playing stretch music in Harlem is different now than what it was ten or twenty years ago. They’re just out there to really have a good time, hang out with their friends and get a chance to listen to great music, but also just to cool.They’re just out there coolin’. It’s one of those things have that’s nice a chance to play for your peers and people that are younger and have an appreciation for the music but they’re not walking into it with historical baggage. They have as a have a good time with the music and love to rock with jazz. So I love playing the rooms in Harlem.
I think most musicians and most artists are scared to make albums that long, because you’re exposed.
EBONY.com: Was it too loud for your liking (Scott half-playfully asked people crushed at the bar to shut up)?
CS: It’s one of those things … that whole event was supposed to be a party. We opted to also perform for people just because we wanted to show our appreciation for so many of our friends, so many industry people that were there. It was just a party where we decided to pull out our instruments, set up and played. But it was fun, man. At the end of the day I like situations like that, too. You can get a moment where you can have a good time with the crowd, you can play with them, they yell things back and there’s a little bit of that back and forth … it’s almost like you’re playing an old juke joint or something like that. You know, especially when you’re playing music in black neighborhoods. That type of camaraderie and that back and forth is what’s to be expected. It would be a different situation if we were playing Carnegie Hall, you know what I mean? But for those patrons and listeners, culturally it’s a different environment. We did a concert downstairs basically in a basement, a juke joint type of club in Harlem. It’s supposed to have that vibe. If it didn’t I’d be weirded out. So if I get on the microphone and say, “Shut up!” it’s really just because I want them to also be aware of the fact that there are people that were there exclusively to listen, you know what I mean? So I just want everybody to respect each other as well. But that show was killer. I had fun.
EBONY: What’s it say to you that there’s such a range in the age of people that are following your career and come to see you play?
CS: The audience is mixed for us. There can be 17-year-olds at a concert and there can be 80-year-olds. The older people a