Reviews that mention Pheeroan akLaff

June 1, 2018

Wadada Leo Smith

TUM CD 049



Libra 204-043

After more than a half century of diverse music making, at 76, Wadada Leo Smith is now considered a major American composer, player and academic theoretician, with the consequent awards and accolades that accrue from that status. Yet they haven’t kept him away from new objectives. Acknowledged for his large-form and solo work, he’s also been part of many combos since he Leroy Jenkins and Anthony Braxton hooked up in the late 1960s. Known for his skills in an all-acoustic environment these new CDs demonstrate his dexterity in an electronic environment and true to form each illuminates a singular aspect of that area. MORE

November 21, 2015

Rob Reddy

Bechet: Our Contemporary
Reddy Music RED 003

Erik Friedlander


Skipstone SSR 22

Arrigo Cappelleti/Furio Di Castri/Bruce Ditmas

Homage to Paul Bley

Leo Records CD LR 732

Barry Harris

Plays Tadd Dameron

Xanadu Master Edition 906071

Roscoe Mitchell

Celebrating Fred Anderson

Nessa ncd-37

Something In The Air: Honoring More Than The Few Famous Jazz Greats

By Ken Waxman

With music like the other arts increasingly focused on known quantities, recorded salutes to jazz greats have almost become a subcategory of their own. If the world needs another record of Beethoven, Mozart, Elvis or Sinatra, then saluting Ellington, Trane or Miles one more time shouldn’t be a dilemma. But more erudite improvisers realize the music’s wider reach, and if they opt to honor innovators, as on the CDs here, choose lesser-known but equally important stylists. 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

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

January 8, 2011

David Murray/Chico Freeman

With Özay
ITM Archives 920009

David Murray

Live at the Lower Manhattan Ocean Club

Jazzwerkstatt JW 073

By Ken Waxman

Over the course of his career saxophonist David Murray has blown hot, cold, but mostly cool. Despite making hundreds of records, few are first class, although most reach a level of high competence. Live at the Lower Manhattan Ocean Club – initially released in 1977 on India Navigation – is one of his best early discs, however. Meanwhile With Özay, from the 1990s, is a top-flight vocal CD, where despite the billing, Murray, Chico Freeman and other first-call jazzers provide sympathetic accompaniment to singer Özay. 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

July 2, 2008

Oliver Lake Trio

hatOLOGY 639

Prime “what if” material this recording captures the perfect balance between improvisation and interpretation of saxophonist Oliver Lake’s compositions attained by his band at the 1979 Willisau Jazz Festival. The unanswered question is what other impressive sounds might have been created if the trio’s singularly inventive guitarist hadn’t subsequently abandoned improvised music.

Born with the inconvenient name of Michael (Gregory) Jackson, the six tracks show how the guitarist had adopted slurred fingering and distorted bowing and tunings to complement the serpentine shrieks and squeals that Lake expelled from his tenor and soprano saxophones. Pheeroan akLaff, a subtle drummer who prefers rumbles, tambourine rattles and bounces to a crunching backbeat, fills out the band. MORE