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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith makes a rare local appearance Friday

Posted By on 06.07.12 at 04:00 PM

Wadada Leo Smith
  • Wadada Leo Smith
Fantastic trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, a former Chicagoan and early member of the AACM, will make a rare local appearance on Friday night at the Goodspeed Recital Hall on the campus of the University of Chicago—he performs with reedist Douglas Ewart and drummer Mike Reed. This ad hoc configuration will improvise for the concert, but Smith is also an excellent composer—he's been on a roll over the past couple years, with several meticulously conceived projects rooted in his own music, including the brand-new Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform), an ambitious four-CD set recorded with his long-running acoustic group the Golden Quartet (expanded to quintet on some tracks with a second drummer) and Los Angeles classical ensemble Southwest Chamber Music.

Ten Freedom Summers consists of 19 original pieces, some performed by just the Golden Quintet (bassist John Lindberg, pianist Anthony Davis, and drummers Susie Ibarra and Pheeroan Aklaff). Smith composed them over a span of 34 years and assembled them to reflect upon the civil rights movement between 1954 and '64; he wrote the first, "Medgar Evers: A Love-Voice of a Thousand Years' Journey for Liberty and Justice," in 1977 for violinist Leroy Jenkins. The set runs well over four hours, so there's a lot to absorb, and I'm only in the beginning stages of appreciating the work. It's clearly a genuinely monumental accomplishment, though, not least because Smith manages to merge his working band with Southwest Chamber Music so convincingly—it's neither third-stream fussy nor quasi-classical glib.

Smith produced a much different sound on last year's churning Heart's Reflections (Cuneiform), a powerful double CD billed to his large-scale group Organic, which in this iteration includes four electric guitarists (including Brandon Ross and Michael Gregory), pianist Angelica Sanchez, and several laptoppers and saxophonists. The bracing, dense, electric ensemble sound clearly echoes the 70s innovations of Miles Davis—kind of an extension of Smith's project with guitarist Henry Kaiser, Yo! Miles, but with all original material. This group has its own identity, though, and Smith's blown-out, visceral, vibrato-free trumpet style couldn't be further from Davis's. Below you can listen to tracks from Ten Freedom Summers and Heart's Reflections.


photo: Scott Groller

Today's playlist:

Mike Moreno, First in Mind (Criss Cross Jazz)
Baba Zula, Gecekondu (Essay)
Henri Pousseur, Parabolique D'Enfer (Sub Rosa)
Jane Birkin, Di Doo Dah (Light in the Attic)
Bill McHenry, Ghosts of the Sun (Sunnyside)

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