Wadada Leo Smith's Organic: Heart's Reflections (2011)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The creative arc of Wadada Leo Smith describes a man of many talents. He was a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) before forming the Creative Construction Company with Anthony Braxton and Leroy Jenkins. He has organized music into rhythm units and added a form of notation he called Akhreanvention. He plays several instruments, primarily the trumpet and flugelhorn. His instincts have also led to the formation of different groups to give voice to the tangents in his music, among them New Delta Akhri, Golden Quartet and Organic, as well as a collaboration with guitarist Henry Kaiser, with whom he has spearheaded two tributes to trumpeter Miles Davis.
With Heart's Reflections, Smith extends the palette of the Davis discs by incorporating more thematic fonts and expanding the borders of the arrangements. His structures are bold and colorful, and are just the right feed for his band of adventurers.
The two-CD set is book-ended by tributes to Don Cherry and Jenkins. Smith signals "Don Cherry's Electric Sonic Garden" with agile lines that vend their way through the thick of the ensemble. The atmosphere is intense, but leaves room not only for Smith's cutting edge, fermenting the body with slabs of propulsion, but also for electric guitarists Michael Gregory and Brandon Ross. The fermenting tide is calmed just past the halfway mark, letting the guitars interpolate and open the door to pianist Angela Sanchez, her cool temperament set against drummer Pheeroan AkLaff's heady pulse. The atmosphere is still charged, the groove fashioned on impulses that capture hard rock as easily as they do funk.
"Leroy Jenkins's Air Steps" is free-flowing, finding different shapes through the collective approach of the band before it intensifies into the hot blood of improvisation. The mood is energized as each of the three quartets Smith uses rises to the challenge. Their advent is arresting, as they explore ideas with fervor before bringing them to fruition.
Smith transposes the title track across two suites into which he immerses an ocean of perception. The tides are ever-changing, with the introspection of a ballad finding companionship with dramatic edifices. His stylistic approach is lucid both in concept and in execution making for a remarkable fluency of the whole.
Smith proves once again that his kinship with creativity is most rewarding.
Track Listing: CD1: Don Cherry's Electric Sonic Garden (For Don Cherry); The Dhikr Of Radiant Hearts, Pt. I; The Dhikr Of Radiant Hearts, Pt. II; The Majestic Way; The Shaykh, As Far As Humaythira; Spiritual Wayfarers; Certainty; Ritual Purity And Love, Pt. I; Ritual Purity And Love, Pt. II. CD2: Silsila; The Well: From Bitter To Fresh Sweet Water, Pt. I; Well: From Bitter To Fresh Sweet Water, Pt. II; Toni Morrison: The Black Hole (Sagittarius A)/Conscience And Epic Memory (For Toni Morrison); Leroy Jenkins's Air Steps (For Leroy Jenkins).
Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, electric trumpet; Brandon Ross: electric guitar; Michael Gregory: electric guitar; Pheeroan akLaff: drums; Angelica Sanchez: piano, Wurlitzer electric piano; Casey Anderson; alto saxophone; John Lindberg: acoustic bass, electric acoustic bass; Skuli Sverrisson: electric bass, 6-string bass; Mark Trayle: laptop; Stephanie Smith: violin; Casey Butler: tenor saxophone; Charlie Burgin: laptop; Josh Gerowitz: electric guitar; Lamar Smith: electric guitar.
Record Label: Cuneiform Records
Style: Modern Jazz