How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Trumpeter, composer and multi-instrumentalist Wadada Leo Smith's career has been one of relentless exploration and bold innovation. His timeless works have always eschewed narrow categorization and shattered musical boundaries. Now, in the eight decade of his life his creative vision has matured without losing any of its youthful energy. On the heels of his epic Pulitzer Prize finalist masterpiece, Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform, 2012,) and his intimate and expressive duet with South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo
, Ancestors (Tum, 2012), comes a tour de force of modern orchestral music, Occupy the World.
Smith conducts the Finnish large collective Tumo, a loose gathering of dynamic improvisers with a strong interest in and inspired by the European and American jazz workshops of 1960s and '70s. The five multilayered Smith originals range from the daringly impressionistic to the contemplatively abstract. "Occupy the World For Life, Liberty and Justice" is an exhilarating theatrical piece that opens with the string section's somber chant to which the stormy and harmonious roar of the ensemble briefly adds a palpable angst. Smith's mellow trumpet weaves a complex tapestry of long and elegiac lines that stretch out over the bass and percussion enhanced dark atmosphere. His horn's wistful growl ushers in the dissonant shouts and clamor of the various instruments that swell and crash against the drums' repetitive, bellicose thuds. The brief calm is shattered with an exuberant, raging cacophony that boils over the drummers' martial beat. The piece closes on a melancholic and a cautiously expectant note.
In contrast, "The Bell2" is strongly spiritual and transcendent. Smith's horn emerges as a clarion call from the textured and apprehensive ambience created by trumpeter Verneri Pohjola
's electronic sonic swirls. Tubaist Kenneth Ojuktangas earthy growls together with percussionists' beats over passionate bowed strings and electric guitars strike the perfect balance between volatile ethereality and earthy stability. After a tempestuous yet lyrical group ebb and flow, flautist Juhani Aaltonen
's serpentine and resonant alto leads to the composition's Zen-like conclusion.
In past recordings Smith has frequently drawn upon various ethnic sources for inspiration. On "Queen Hatshepsut," classical Arabic (primarily Egyptian) elements color the orchestration that unfolds over the energetic rattle of drums. The languid and stately melody grows more symphonic, anchored in bottom-heavy brass and percussion, before it is deconstructed into a freer flowing and delightfully atonal second movement. There are multiple musical tableaus that overlap in an intriguing and singular pattern. A pastoral scene, with Aaltonen's flute soars over trees rustling in the wind, precedes an enchanting nocturnesque atmosphere, characterized by Smith's clean, haunting tones. Accordionist Veli Kujala's wistful playing, over bassist Ulf Krokfors' reverberating strings, enhances the tune's mysticism.
By deftly melding spontaneity with careful planning Smith has successfully created an organic and sophisticated work. The music crackles with a primal life force and intellectually stimulates with its intricacy. This consummate and ambitious album transcends genres and labels to become an instant classic.
Track Listing: Queen Hatshepsut; The Bell - 2; Mount Kilimanjaro (Love And Compassion For John Lindberg);
Crossing On A Southern Road (A Memorial For Marion Brown); Occupy The World For Life,
Liberty And Justice.
Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, conductor, soloist (1, 2, 4, 5); John Lindberg: bass, soloist (3);
Verneri Pohjola: trumpet and electronics; Jari Hongisto: trombone; Kalle Hassinen: horn;
Kenneth Ojutkangas: tuba; Juhani Aaltonen: flute, alto flute, bass flute and piccolo; Fredrik
Ljungqvist: tenor and sopranino saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet; Mikko Innanen: alto,
soprano and baritone saxophones; Seppo Kantonen piano; Iro Haarla harp; Mikko Iivanainen:
electric guitar; Kalle Kalima electric guitar; Veli Kujala: quarter-tone accordion; Terhi
Pylkkänen: violin; Niels Thorkild Levinsen: violin; Barbora Hilpo: viola; Iida-Vilhelmiina Laine:
cello; Ulf Krokfors: double bass; Janne Tuomi: drums and marimba; Mika Kallio: drums; Stefan