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A Fireside Chat With Wadada Leo Smith

By Published: November 29, 2003

WLS: Yes, in fact, it is coming out very soon. It will be out in September. It is a four-CD set. There is new material on there. There is new solo material that I did. There is another series of tapes that have been transferred for this new box set release that Wes Brown, Anthony Davis, and I did, the original trio, the New Dalta Ahkri trio. That is pretty exciting. There is at least forty or sixty minutes of that music that was recorded a year after the original Reflectativity came out. It is the missing link out of the first original New Dalta Ahkri music and it is going to be in that box set.

FJ: The Golden Quartet featuring Anthony Davis, Malachi Favors, and Jack DeJohnette has releases on both the Tzadik and Pi labels. Will it continue?

WLS: It is difficult, but the difficulty is within the capacity of our schedules. There is quite a bit of resistance against this band by organizers. Not by fans because the record sales are good and not by critics because the critics have given us a resounding support. It has been sold out every time we’ve played, whether on a festival in Europe, or a college gig, or in Central Park. Not only has it been sold out, but when that band hits the stage, people are excited. It has been very difficult because when you have a quartet like there where everybody has been successful on some level, it is not a cheap ensemble. That is the first thing. Secondly, it seems like there is a difficulty in perception. I have had many people like yourself ask why the band doesn’t come out here. It doesn’t come out because we’ve not been offered anything here where there is enough money to do that.

FJ: Conversely, would the quartet be willing to take less just to play Los Angeles?

WLS: We would take less. We have a range when it comes to doing work in America. What we do is, if the money is palpable, we can do fundraising. That is how we can do something like that. We are trying to do it this way. We are not trying to play in cheap venues. We are trying to play in venues where we can actually make an impact and show that this music, acoustical music, can actually draw by the power of its creativity.

FJ: Organic Resonance is your latest on the Pi label, a duo recording with Braxton.

WLS: It was a live recording, but was recorded very well. It is a good mix and was an exciting evening, both performances were.

FJ: And the future?

WLS: I am performing in New York at Tonic with John Zorn. We’re doing a duet for his 50th birthday celebration. The Golden Quartet is going to play in New York on December 13. I can tell you one thing, Fred, that is going to happen next year in February. I have invited Anthony Braxton out to do my Creative Music Festival and he is going to do both days of it, one day on campus, Friday, and then Saturday in the new Disney building downtown. It will be a festival of his music. It will be a complete program of his music. We’ve made the call for musicians up the coast to come and form a creative orchestra for him. This will be the fourth year of the festival. The first three years was dedicated to collaborations. As of this year, we are starting a new series that deals with one or two artists that do the whole festival. Hopefully, next year, it will be James Newton and Anthony Davis together. I am inviting really creative artists, who think systemically to come and study with me.

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