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In 1971, four years after Coltrane's death, the hole that was left in jazz was intimidating. Ayler, Sanders, Taylor, et al. had pushed free music as loud and as far out as they could, and once dissonance and tumult had made themselves at home, the next generation responded not with more noise, but with silence. Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith aligned himself with the AACM in Chicago and the sensibilities that produced Roscoe Mitchell's Sound, Anthony Braxton's solo For Alto, and the music of the Art Ensemble.
It's also difficult to remember the time when a jazz (or any) musician who recorded and released his own record was committing an act of do-it-yourself defiance, marking himself as a maverick. The music on the four-CD set Kabell Years: 1971-1979 includes four LPs Smith released on his own label, in addition to over two hours of material that until now has gone unreleased. The box is bookended by two solo efforts. Creative Music 1 emphasizes Smith's purity of tone on the trumpet, found percussion and odd unexpected sounds, like when he turns his horn into a tea kettle. "Aura, a cut from 1979's solo Ahkreanvention, represents Smith's entire approach in three minutes, putting his confidence in quiet and arresting the listener's attention with the depth of his spiritual commitment to the music. Disc two, centered around Reflectativity (1974), adds bass and piano, and the compositions' false endings slow time.
Listening straight through from the first disc, it takes a while before you hear a bass line or a drum beat. When one finally comes on disc three, the second track from 1976's Song of Humanity, it's startling and provides welcome variety, as does Oliver Lake's alto. Here Smith's quintet shines with tense improvisation on "Of Blues and Dreams as the horns play in unison over composed lines, Anthony Davis bangs dramatically on the piano, and Pheeroan AkLaff's drums crash, before Lake and Davis have at it.
All of this music requires patience from the listener: you can't be in a hurry. As more and more music is heard on shuffle play and bought one song at a time, the boxed set seems to have outlasted its relevancebut not here. Having all of this material available in one spot establishes Wadada Leo Smith as a major musical force and verifies his important and lasting influence on succeeding generations.
Track Listing: CD1: Nine (9) Stones on a Mountain; Improvisation No. 4; Creative Music ? 1; aFmie ? Poem
DancE 3; Ogotommeli: Dogon Sage; Ep ? 1; Ngoma: Gravity and Lightwaves; Seeds; Zekr;
Until the Fire.
CD2: Reflectativity; t wmukl ? D; North American Stomp; Visions; Transcendental Suite.
CD3: Song of Humanity; Lexicon; Peacocks, Gazelles, Dogwood Trees & Six Silver Coins; Of
Blues and Dreams; Pneuma; Tempio; Play Ebony Play Ivory.
CD4: Life Sequence 1; Love is a Rare Beauty: Movements 1?5; Aura; Ankrasmation; Atoke;
Fana; The Zebra Goes Wild.
Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: flugelhorn, trumpet, little instruments; Anthony Davis: piano; Oliver
Lake: alto, soprano saxophones, flute; Wesley Brown: bass; Pheeroan AkLaff: drums,