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Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo: Ancestors

Eyal Hareuveni By

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The title of this remarkable album says it all. American trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo are two forefathers of modern jazz, innovative musicians who redefined the practices of their instruments and the connections between the Afro-American, African and European jazz legacies— creative composers and esteemed bandleaders for nearly five decades and role models for generations of musicians. So, this musical meeting between these two masters, their first as a duo, was bound to happen. Thanks to the Finnish TUM label said meeting was documented beautifully.

Both musicians accumulated extensive experience with the duo format. Smith, mainly with drummers: Ed Blackwell on The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer (Kabell, 2010); Gunter Baby Sommer on Wisdom in Time (Clean Feed, 2007)n and Adam Rudolph on Compassion (Meta, 2006), to name a few. Moholo-Moholo, with pianists—Irene Schweizer (Intakt, 1987), Cecil Taylor on Remembrance (FMP, 1989), and Marilyn Crispell with Sibanye (We Are One) (Intakt, 2008), also among many others. Yet this fresh-sounding collaboration between two exceptional artists conveys ancient truths and potent wisdom with passion, grace and compassion.

The first duet is Smith's dedication to Moholo-Moholo. It is a poetic and ritual invocation for his unique usage of space and time in his drumming language. Smith's muted trumpet sound is reserved and lyrical, while Moholo-Moholo encompasses it with subtle touches on the traps. On "No Name In The Street, James Baldwin," referring to the writer who was a role model for Smith—as an artist who is committed to a just society— is a conversational piece where both Smith and Moholo-Moholo respond and challenge each other's flow of musical ideas.

"Jackson Pollock-Action" is a free improvisation that corresponds with the manner in which the late painter created and improvised his art, in the present moment without preconceived notions. Both Smith and Moholo-Moholo highlight series of ideas, rhythms, stories and colors with their rich musical vocabularies. Moholo-Moholo's dedication to his father, "Siholaro," is reverential and festive in its spirit, a cry of yearning, yet also a call of great love.

The 25-minute spontaneous improvisation of the title piece, with a basic five-part structure, is a fiery meeting of adventurous minds. The interplay is full of wonders, telepathic and playful. In its last percussive part, Moholo-Moholo is featured, chanting his loving dedications to other creative musicians—among them his late musical partners Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana and Chris McGregor—following Smith's belief that creativity begets creativity.

A magical musical journey that calls for following chapters.

Track Listing: Moholo-Moholo/Golden Spirit; No Name In The Street, James Baldwin; Jackson Pollock, Action; Siholaro; Ancestors.

Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, percussion; Louis Moholo-Moholo: drums, percussion, voice.

Title: Ancestors | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: TUM Records

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