Reviews that mention Wadada Leo Smith

September 1, 2016

Artist Feature

Angelica Sanchez
By Ken Waxman

Thoroughly grounded in jazz and improvised music, having worked with figures as disparate as trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and percussionist Kevin Norton, pianist Angelica Sanchez still admits a fondness for Latin American folk music and even old time country & western. A Little House, her 2011 solo disc even includes a version of Hank Thompson’s “I’ll Sign My Heart Away”. “I’ve always had a deep love of country music. I love Merle Haggard, and all the old guys,” says Sanchez, 44 “I love the stories they tell and I love the different sounds associated with that music.” This interest isn’t surprising coming from a native of Phoenix. But it also points out the peril of ascribing characteristics to anyone’s sound, based on background. Although Sanchez’s name is Mexican-American, for instance, both she and her parents were born in the US and there’s no trace of that lineage in her composing and playing. “I never visited Mexico as a child,” she reveals “and early recording from my father shaped my musical universe from a young age more than any distant heritage.” MORE

July 21, 2015

Wadada Leo Smith & Eco d’Alberi

June 6th 2013
Novara Jazz Series 001

Wadada Leo Smith/Jamie Saft/Joe Morris/Balàzs Pàndi

Red Hill

Rare Noise RNR 044

Resilient is one word that can easily be applied to trumpet-composer Wadada Leo Smith, 73. About a half century after he was one of the original Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM) thinkers who helped redefine improvised music, he’s still as busy as ever with new projects and recordings. Not only that, but like any forward-thinking experimenter, he’s unafraid to try out new concepts with new casts of characters. Both these sessions for instance find him working with ensembles – one American, one Italian – consisting of players at least three decades younger than him. With no incompatibility sensed, each interaction focuses on a unique aspect of Smith’s variant of creative music. MORE

July 21, 2015

Wadada Leo Smith/Jamie Saft/Joe Morris/Balàzs Pàndi

Red Hill
Rare Noise RNR 044

Wadada Leo Smith & Eco d’Alberi

June 6th 2013

Novara Jazz Series 001

Resilient is one word that can easily be applied to trumpet-composer Wadada Leo Smith, 73. About a half century after he was one of the original Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM) thinkers who helped redefine improvised music, he’s still as busy as ever with new projects and recordings. Not only that, but like any forward-thinking experimenter, he’s unafraid to try out new concepts with new casts of characters. Both these sessions for instance find him working with ensembles – one American, one Italian – consisting of players at least three decades younger than him. With no incompatibility sensed, each interaction focuses on a unique aspect of Smith’s variant of creative music. MORE

June 11, 2015

Anthony Braxton

Trio and Duet
Sackville (Delmark) SK3007

Parker/Dunmall/Bianco

Extremes

Red Toucan RT 9349

Evan Parker ElectroAcoustic Septet

Seven

Victo 127

Harris Eisenstadt

Golden State II

Songlines SGL 1610-2

EarNear

EarNear

TourdeBras TDB90012 CD

Something In The Air: Canadian Exposure for Out-of-the-Country Out-of-the-Ordinary Improvisers

By Ken Waxman

Just as international improvisers sometimes find a more welcoming atmosphere for their sound experiments in Canada than at home, so too have Canadian record labels become a vehicle to release notable free music sessions. Attesting to this openness, two of the most recent discs by British saxophone master Evan Parker are on Canadian imprints. But each arrived by a different route. One of the triumphs of 2014’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville in Quebec, this performance of Seven by Parker’s ElectroAcoustic Septet (Victo 127) are available on Victo, FIMAV’s affiliated imprint. Consisting of one massive and one shorter instant composition, Seven literally delineates the electro-acoustic divide. Trumpeter Peter Evans, reedist Ned Rothenberg, cellist Okkyung Lee and Parker make up the acoustic side, while varied laptop processes are operated by Ikue Mori and Sam Pluta, with George Lewis switching between laptop and trombone, with his huffing brass tone making a particular impression during a contrapuntal faced-off with Parker’s soprano saxophone during Seven-2. At nearly 46 minutes, “Seven-1” is the defining work, attaining several musical crests during its ghostly, meandering near time-suspension, Allowing for full expression of instrumental virtuosity, dynamic flutters, flanges and processes from the laptoppists accompany, comment upon or challenge the acoustic instruments. Alternately wave forms loops and echoes cause the instrumentalists to forge their reposes. Plenty of sonic surprises arise during the sequences. Undefined processed-sounding bee-buzzing motifs for example are revealed as mouth and lip modulations from Evans’ piccolo trumpet or aviary trills from Rothenberg’s clarinet. In contrast the electronics’ crackles and static are often boosted into mellower affiliations that sound purely acoustic. Eventually both aspects meld into a climax of bubbly consistency with any background-foreground, electro or acoustic displays satisfactorily melded. More percussive “Seven-2” has a climax involving fragmented electronics pulsating steadily as first Evans, then Rothenberg and finally Parker spill out timbres that confirm formalism as much as freedom. MORE

March 8, 2014

Angelica Sanchez/Wadada Leo Smith

Twine Forest
Clean Feed CF 287 CD

Irène Schweizer/Pierre Favre

Live in Zürich

Intakt CD 228

Chris Abrahams/Magda Mayas

Gardener

Relative Pitch RPR 1011

By Ken Waxman

With the piano a mini-orchestra, instrumentalists who partner pianists in a duo must bring prodigious chops as well as lightening quick reflexes to the program. Luckily the talents of each set of improvisers here isn’t in question. But the capacity of the other instrument is crucial in measuring the session’s achievement. MORE

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

September 14, 2013

Wadada Leo Smith and TUM Orchestra

Occupy The World
TUM CD 037-2

Nicole Mitchell’s Ice Crystal

Aquarius

Delmark DE 5004

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do

Time Stands Still

NotTwo MW 897-2

Bomata

Arômes d’allieurs

Malasartes mam 016

Something In The Air: The Guelph Jazz Festival Turns 20

By Ken Waxman

Twenty years after its modest beginning, the Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF), which this year takes place September 3 to 8, has grown to be one of this country’s major improvised music celebrations. Unlike many other so-called jazz fests which lard their programs with crooners masquerading as jazz singers, tired rock or pop acts, or so-called World or C&W performers who make no pretense of playing jazz, the GJF continues to showcase committed improvisers in sympathetic settings including during the fourth installment of the dusk-to-dawn Nuit Blanche. MORE

July 4, 2013

Festival Report:

JazzWeksttatt Peitz
By Ken Waxman

More than 40 years after East Germany’s so-called free jazz paradise regularly attracted Woodstock-sized crowds to this town, about 20 kilometres from the Polish border – and three years after it was revived after a 29-year government-nudged hiatus – JazzWeksttatt Peitz is still working to define its identity

Celebrated in its earlier days as perhaps the one place young East Germans could camp in the open air and experience Western-styled peace and love vibes, albeit with a jazz rather than a rock soundtrack, the festival celebrated its 50th program June 7-9, inviting 21 acts to perform in four different venues, with “open air” now an enclosed tent with rows of chairs. 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

January 22, 2013

Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo

Ancestors
TUM CD 029

Chicago Underground Duo

Age of Energy

Northern Spy NS 020

Not the most common configuration by any means, the mating of trumpet (or cornet) and drums is usually avoided because of a perceived lack of tonal colors and contrast. That concern hasn’t daunted these duos, with the qualities implicit in Free Music adding to their singular audacity. At the same time each chooses to highlight their brass-percussion output in an original fashion. California-based trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, 72, and South African percussionist Louis Moholo-Moholo, 73, play completely acoustically on their first-ever meeting. In contrast the Chicago Underground Duo (CUD) consisting of corniest Rob Mazurek, 47, and drummer Chad Taylor, 39, utilize a variety of older percussion and up-to-the-minute electronic peripherals to expand their sound. MORE

July 11, 2012

London Improvisers Orchestra

Lio Leo Leon
psi 11.04

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York

ETO

Libra Records 215-029

Le GGRIL avec Evan Parker

Vivaces

Tour de Bras TDB9006 CD

The Royal Improvisers Orchestra

Live at the Bimhuis

Riot Impro 01

Something in the Air: New Soloists for Improvising Ensembles

By Ken Waxman

Adding another voice to an established improvising ensemble is more precarious than it seems. With a group having worked out strategies allowing for individual expression within a larger context – and without notated cues – the visitor(s) must be original without unbalancing the interface. Luckily the sessions here demonstrate successful applications. MORE

May 26, 2012

Wadada Leo Smith’s Mbira

Dark Lady of the Sonnets
TUM CD 023

Prime example of how a full-out Jazz-improv CD can be enlivened with unusual timbres and instruments without becoming a so-called ethnic project, is illustrated by Dark Lady of the Sonnets. This program of five compositions by trumpeter and flugelhornist Wadada Leo Smith balances his brass textures with the African-American Jazz timbres of percussionist Pheeroan akLaff plus Nanjing-born Min Xiao-Fen’s skills on pipa and voice. But never is the Orientalist exoticism emphasized over the other tones. For her part Min uses her rhythmic and biting vocal gymnastics to complement the others’ work. Similarly, although the group is named for the African thumb piano, clichéd Africanism are about as far from this music as baroque references. MORE

February 12, 2011

Lest We Forget:

Malachi Favors (1927-2004)
By Ken Waxman

Trickster to the end, when bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut died of pancreatic cancer in early 2004, his daughter revealed that he had actually born 10 years earlier than his previously accepted 1937 birth date. In a way that concluding jape was perfectly in character for the versatile bassist who from the mid-1960s until his death was a vital component of the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC). The quintet proved that theatricism in the form of face paint, costumes, so-called “little instruments” and stylistic turns could be the source of profound and searching modern jazz – or if you prefer Great Black Music Ancient to the Future. MORE

February 12, 2011

Tony Malaby’s Tamarindo

Live
Clean Feed CF 200CD

By Ken Waxman

Despite the overtly Christian religious iconography on the cover of Tamarindo Live, it would seem that the faith affirmed by this expanded version of saxophonist Tony Malaby’s band is that of free jazz. Moreover, the addition of veteran trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, certainly no fundamentalist, to the core trio filled out by second-generation drum stylist Nasheet Waits and free jazz’s most omnipresent bassist William Parker, elevates the program to an even higher spiritual and sonic plane. MORE

June 6, 2010

Festival Report:

Freedom of the City 2010
By Ken Waxman

“To Thine Self Be True” is lettered horizontally in careful script above the stage at Conway Hall in London’s Bloomsbury district, where London’s annual Freedom of the City (FOTC) festival took place May 2 and 3. Although related to the philosophy of the Ethical Society which built the edifice in 1929, the slogan can easily also be applied to five dozen or so improvisers featured at FOTC.

Organized about decade ago by saxophonist Evan Parker and AMM percussionist Eddie Prévost to showcase the city’s vibrant improvising scene, FOTC today welcomes as many tyros as veterans – and from the Continent and North America as well as the United Kingdom. Participants ranged from eccentric soprano saxophonist Lol Coxhill, 77 and American trumpeter Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, 67, to young participants in Prévost’s weekly improv workshop and American brassman Peter Evans. MORE

May 27, 2010

Wadada Leo Smith

Spiritual Dimensions
Cuneiform Rune 290/291

During a career that stretches from the mid-1960s, Mississippi-born trumpeter and educator Wadada Leo Smith has never followed one path. A founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM), Smith – who excelled at playing acoustic music with stylists such as reedist Anthony Braxton and drummer Günter Baby Sommer, has also become comfortable with electric instruments, most notably in the Yo Miles! project with guitarist Henry Kaiser.

However while accepting the strictures affiliated with thicker beats and electricity Smith also doesn’t kowtow to any accepted formula. Plugged-in wave forms are used in his compositions and performances exactly in the same fashion as acoustic timbres. Take this impressive two-CD set as an example. On the first disc, the percussion input is doubled, making what formerly was a Golden quartet a quintet; while on disc two, with the Organic ensemble, the string section includes not only bass, electric bass and cello, but also features at least three and sometimes four electric guitarists. MORE

October 8, 2008

Variations on a Theme

Guelph Jazz Festival Musicians On Their Own
Extended Play

Barry Guy/Mats Gustafsson/Raymond Strid

Tarfala

Maya MCD0801

Junk Box

Cloudy Then Sunny

Libra Records 203-019

John Zorn

News For Lulu

hatOLOGY 650

Matana Roberts

The Chicago Project

Central Control CC1006PR

Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet

Tabligh

Cuneiform Rune 270

AMMÜ Quartet

AMMÜ Quartet
MORE

October 19, 2007

EUPHORIUM_freakestra

2 Trios & 2 Babies
EUPHORIUM Records EUPH 009

Wadada Leo Smith/Günter Baby Sommer

Wisdom in Time

Intakt CD 128

Nicknamed “Baby” by an early reviewer, who likened his playing to that of traditional New Orleans drummer Baby Dodds, East German percussionist Günter “Baby” Sommer shares his namesake’s instrumental inventiveness. But as these sessions prove, he isn’t limited by anyone’s definition of jazz or improvised music.

Interestingly enough, the CDs are almost the converse of one another – Wisdom in Time is reductive, while 2 Trios & 2 Babies is augmentative. Both those adjectives relate to the personnel rather than the music however. The first features Dresden-based Sommer improvising alongside sympathetic American trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. The reductive part comes about because the two were initially part of a trio with the late bassist Peter Kowald, memorialized on the track “Brass-Star Hemispheres”. MORE

October 19, 2007

Wadada Leo Smith/Günter Baby Sommer

Wisdom in Time
Intakt CD 128

EUPHORIUM_freakestra

2 Trios & 2 Babies

EUPHORIUM Records EUPH 009

Nicknamed “Baby” by an early reviewer, who likened his playing to that of traditional New Orleans drummer Baby Dodds, East German percussionist Günter “Baby” Sommer shares his namesake’s instrumental inventiveness. But as these sessions prove, he isn’t limited by anyone’s definition of jazz or improvised music.

Interestingly enough, the CDs are almost the converse of one another – Wisdom in Time is reductive, while 2 Trios & 2 Babies is augmentative. Both those adjectives relate to the personnel rather than the music however. The first features Dresden-based Sommer improvising alongside sympathetic American trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. The reductive part comes about because the two were initially part of a trio with the late bassist Peter Kowald, memorialized on the track “Brass-Star Hemispheres”. MORE

November 22, 2004

HENRY KAISER/WADADA LEO SMITH/YO MILES!

Sky Garden
Cuneiform Rune 191/192

One of the most memorable -- if not the most memorable -- tributes to Miles Davis, the exultant Yo Miles! band makes its case for a variety of reasons.

First of all, it leaves the BIRTH OF THE COOL and ALL BLUES emulation to the neo-cons and instead concentrates on Davis’ little-appreciated 1971-1975 electric period. Second, unlike younger fusion bands that have recorded embarrassingly overwrought electric Miles imitations, Yo Miles! bandleaders -- guitarist Henry Kaiser and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith -- are old enough to have heard the sounds when they first appeared. Third, the two and their sidefolk approach the concept languidly, having worked on and refined their ideas -- while involved in other projects -- since 1998. MORE

August 4, 2003

JOE MCPHEE/BILL SMITH ENSEMBLE

Visitation
Boxholder BXH 034

LEO SMITH/BILL SMITH ENSEMBLE
Rastafari
Boxholder BXH 035

Long before its present infamy -- for Americans -- as home for runaway TV and movie productions and North American SARS headquarters, hipper types knew that Toronto was a welcoming refuge for U.S. jazzers -- from the most traditional to the most avant garde.

For the later, one particular purple patch began in the mid-1970s, when local Sackville records first took it upon itself to document the work of American experimenters such as multi-reedist Anthony Braxton. The label’s commitment to the style continued into the early 1980s -- it has since turned more mainstream -- when these memorable discs were cut. Woodstock, Vt.’s Boxholder label has reissued both CDs. Other outside Sackville sessions from the same time are being reissued in limited editions by the Toronto label itself. MORE

June 16, 2003

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Live from the Vision Festival
Thirsty Ear THI 57131.2

The next best thing to being there, this combination CD and DVD package offers a distillation of some of the outstanding performances from last year’s Vision Festival in New York’s Lower East Side. Lacking the name recognition of Newport, Montreux, or any other capitalist entity-associated international star festival, in its less than 10 year existence, Vision has still promulgated a unique artistic vision.

Built around the vision of bassist William Parker, it’s a place where pioneering avant gardists from the 1960s mix it up with younger players who are carrying on experimental ideals. It’s cross-cultural, national and international as well, with the musicians showcased on this session arriving from Germany, Korea, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, Valencia, Calif., New Orleans… and Brooklyn, MORE

December 30, 2002

WADADA LEO SMTH AND THE GOLDEN QUARTET

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