Wadada Leo Smith's Organic: Heart's Reflections (2011)
For Mies van der Rohe, the saying "less is more" might be true. But for trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, more is always more. Heart's Reflections is his fifth release for Cuneiform Records and, like his three prior efforts, a double CD.
Organic, one of Smith's numerous working bands, is a continuation of his Yo Miiles! project with guitarist Henry Kaiser, the jazz/rock love child of Miles Davis' electric era. Organic was first recorded as the second disc on Smith's Spiritual Dimensions (Cuneiform, 2009), and is positioned to take Yo Miles! one step beyond with an electric sound that begins with the blues and funk, then evolves into modern composition.
The discs open and close with two 20-plus minute performances. Together, "Don Cherry's Electric Sonic Garden" and "Leroy Jenkins's Air Steps" showcase Smith's simple-to- complex perspective. Employing four electric guitarists and two bassists, and with violinist Stephanie Smith replacing cellist Okkyung Lee, Smith brings the noise with a funky opener that features his electric trumpet slurring hot sauce over the groove. By the closer, Smith's Organic has become a more complex undertaking. The large ensemble creates several assemblages of players with differing approaches to soloing and varied interactions.
Between the bookends, Smith's music pilots the music's evolution, unfolding the sound on each track. He presents the spiritual nature of Organic, playing off drummer Pheeroan akLaff's soloing on "The Dhikr Of Radiant Hearts, Pt. I," and pairing pianist Angelica Sanchez with bassist John Lindberg on "Pt. II."
Smith also updates the Milesian electric sound with two laptop computer artists, Mark Trayle and Charlie Burgin, who add eerie and ethereal sounds to "Ritual Purity And Love, Pt. I" and "Toni Morrison: The Black Hole (Sagittarius A)/Conscience And Epic Memory." Plenty of jazz funk and blues/rock are sprinkled into these 14 tracks, to satisfy the groove, but at its heart, Organic was planted to sprout some adventure.
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.