Reviews that mention Anthony Davis

October 14, 2013

Festival Report

Guelph Jazz Festival
By Ken Waxman

New combination and new conceptions, sporadically sprinkled with touches of exotica, characterized the 20th anniversary edition of the Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF) September 4-8. Affiliated with a contiguous academic Colloquium on improvisation, the GJF, located in a small university city, fewer than 100 kilometres west of Toronto, has from its beginning stretched the definition of “jazz”, while avoiding populist pandering. The approach obviously works well, with the GJF slowly expanding. On Saturday, afternoon and evening free outdoor concerts now take place in front of city hall; the free, dusk-to-dawn Nuit Blanche offers intimates performances in non-traditional downtown spaces. Plus a full schedule of workshops and formal concerts unrolls each day. MORE

May 8, 2013

Wadada Leo Smith

Ten Freedom Summers
Cuneiform Records RUNE 350/351/352/353

By Ken Waxman

Striving to musically capture defining moments in African-American history, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has written 19 compositions to mostly reflect events of the Civil Rights era from 1954-1964; the Ten Freedom Summers of the title. In a gestation period that began in 1977 and consumed most of his time during a three-year stretch before this four-CD set was recorded in late 2011, Smith broadened his focus back to the Dred Scott case and forward to September 11th. Interpreted by the jazz-sophisticated members of his Golden Quartet/Quintet (GQ) plus the Southwest Chamber Music (SCM) group, 70-year-old Smith calls the program, “one of my life’s defining works”. Personal rather than pedantic, the compositions celebrate defining moments. Although there are related motifs among them, linkage is more psychological than sonic. Each composition is designed to stand on its own. MORE

August 6, 2011

Jason Robinson/Anthony Davis

Cerulean Landscape
Clean Feed CF 198 CD

By Ken Waxman

Back to the future for pianist Anthony Davis, this CD is a reminder that the improvising skill he first exhibited in the 1970s still lurks within the composer now best-known for his chamber, choral and symphonic work as well as operas such as X and Amistad. Co-leader of the band Cosmologic, multi-reedist Jason Robinson renews the on-again-off-again relationship he has had with Davis since 1998, for a series of duo numbers, most composed by either man.

Nevertheless, “Someday I'll Know” written by Jason Shurbury, is the tune closest to a standard, and both so-called avant-gardists handle it exquisitely. Robinson’s moderato flutter tonguing quivers comfortably alongside low-frequency keyboard tinkles from Davis. Delicately emphasizing the tune’s contours as it unspools, the pianist turns to comping when the saxophonist reenters with a conclusive, andante cadenza. MORE

July 12, 2011

Anthony Davis

Of Blues and Dreams
Sackville SKCD2-3020

Julius Hemphill

Roi Boyé & the Gotham Mintrels

Sackville SKCD2-3014/15

Oliver Lake/Julius Hemphill

Buster Bee

Sackville SKCD2-3016

George Lewis

The Solo Trombone Record

Sackville SKCD2-3012

Karl Berger & Dave Holland

All Kinds of Time

Sackville SKCD2-3010

Roscoe Mitchell


Sackville SKCD2-3009)

Barry Altschul Trio

November 17, 2003


Strong Force
Mutable Music 17511-2

STRONG FORCE is a true American mongrel.

A through-composed piece, written by someone very much on the New music side of things, it’s still given a distinct sense of spontaneity through the contributions of improvisers, whose sympathies usually lie on the jazz side of the fence. Commissioned by The Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, much of the music bubbles along thanks to the individual players’ skills, as well as its creation by Sunnyside, N.Y.-based composer Earl Howard who sits in on synthesizer. In fact, STRONG FORCE’s main weakness is definitely extra-musical, with some contributions distant or muffled because of the live recording situation at New York’s Merkin Hall. MORE

December 30, 2002


The Year of the Elephant
Pi Recordings P104

Without trying to be flippant, it seems that a lot of Miles Davis' conception has rubbed off on trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith since did his YO, MILES! tribute disc with guitarist Henry Kaiser a couple of years back.

While this new CD with his all-star Golden Quartet only pays homage to Davis on two tracks, much of Smith's Harmon-muted work here resembles the sort of brass constructions Miles used in the period from IN A SILENT WAY through BITCHES BREW and beyond. Smith doesn't come up with an outright imitation, or produce a CD that's less than attractive. It's just with the talent involved, you feel so much could have been accomplished. As a matter of fact when you're not reminded of Miles here, the tunes often take on that air of precocious profundity that characterize the style of Keith Jarrett, a former Davis sideman and present employer of drummer Jack DeJohnette. MORE

November 4, 2002


Blackwater Bridge
Drimala DR 02-347-02

Accretions ALP 025CD

Making a list of dedicated harpists who excel in -- or even play -- free form music doesn’t take too long. In improvised music, for instance, there’s Briton Rhodri Davies and American Zeena Parkins and … Davies and Parkins. In jazz there was Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane and, … unsurprisingly, Ashby and Coltrane.

However BLACKWATER BRIDGE, an exacting duo disc featuring alto saxophonist Gary Hassay, definitely adds harpist Anne LeBaron to that stellar company. Considering the unadorned musical circumstances here, her work may be even more noteworthy. After all, solo saxophone doesn’t provide much back up. MORE