A Fireside Chat with Wadada Leo Smith
AAJ: And there is a second volume of your duet with Anthony Braxton.
LS: I called Braxton to see if he wanted to formulate our duet again since we hadn't done it in ten or fifteen years. In fact, we have only played three duets together in our whole professional lives - once in Chicago, once in France, and this one in New York. Neither of the earlier two produced material. There is no recording of the first one, which was in 1967. This other one in France was for the radio, but we never acquired the tapes. We decided we would do it on a Saturday night and we looked at the music an hour before we played it. All of it was new music that I had never seen and that he had never seen. We didn't send music through the mail because our relationship is that we can sit down and look at the score and talk about it and go and do it. We don't sound check the music. We sat down one hour before and decided which pieces we were going to play. We hugged and embraced each other and we go out like gladiators. We try our best to recreate the universe with every entrance of breath and exit of breath. It is always a challenge to play with Braxton because it is always a fresh moment. Once you get into it, you don't care if you are alive or dead because the only thing that matters is achieving the goal.
AAJ: That kind of blind trust goes beyond musical bonds to unabridged unity.
LS: There is an absolute pinnacle of trust. You cannot do it otherwise. The trust goes so deep that we go out and eat the same food. Braxton generally eats bad food. When I'm doing this duet with Braxton, we eat the same food because that is the level which our communication exists on.
AAJ: And the future?
LS: I have a Silver Orchestra, which includes some of the greatest musicians in New York: John Zorn, Susie Ibarra, Jennifer Choi, Marc Ribot, Gerald Cleaver, John Lindberg, Craig Taborn. We just made a beautiful record. We played at Tonic in April. The next day, we recorded. That is coming out in November on the Tzadik label.
AAJ: Since Malachi Favors untimely death, have you continued the Golden Quartet?
LS: The Golden Quartet is completely brand new now. It has John Lindberg on bass, Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums, and Vijay Iyer on piano. That is the new Golden Quartet.
AAJ: You imported Shannon Jackson from Texas.
LS: That's right. And I have created a third ensemble called Blue. You see the colors coming through: silver, gold, and blue. Blue is an electric ensemble that includes me on mostly electric trumpet, Tyondai Braxton, and Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums. Both the new Golden Quartet and Blue, I plan to get them both in the studio this year. The Golden Quartet will be performing in September 2005 in Southern California. There will be a performance of the Golden Quartet and a Persian quartet. I was commissioned to do music for a double quartet. That will be at REDCAT.