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Wadada Leo Smith / Sabu Toyozumi: Burning Meditation

John Sharpe By

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The Japanese concept of ma—a celebration of the space between things—is one to which trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith can readily subscribe. Space and silence are as important as sound in his conception. The weight given to the pauses between phrases stands out on this live recording from 1994 with Japanese drummer Sabu Toyozumi, which forms another winning installment in the Chap Chap series of archival recordings from Japan which see the light of day thanks to licensing to the Lithuanian Nobusiness imprint.

Smith's affinity with drummers is well known, manifest through a sequence of duets with the likes of Gunter Sommer, Jack DeJohnette, Adam Rudolph and Louis Moholo-Moholo. Seemingly the first was his 1986 session with Ed Blackwell documented on The Blue Mountain Sun's Drummer (Kabell, 2010), but Burning Meditation is one of the earliest and ranks highly. Like Smith, Toyozumi is similarly well-travelled having once spent a year in Chicago, becoming the only non-American member of the AACM in the process. Perhaps no surprise then that they share such a simpatico outlook.

Smith's stepfather was a Delta bluesman, and that spirit has never been far away from his playing even within more exploratory spheres. Smith's earthy lyricism pervades the open dialogue of "Creative Music 1 -Red Mountain Garden, Wild Irises And Glacier Lines," buoyed by Toyozumi's spare rumbles and crashes. The drummer serves as an equal partner. He effects changes in direction through dynamic shifts as much as Smith, evident in "Voices -Agano River Flow" where his assertive rhythmic patterns energize the trumpeter.

Smith briefly varies the textures with coloration on flute and koto. He also sings and plays twangy thumb piano on "There Are Human Rights Blues," a piece reminiscent of "Don't You Remember" from Kulture Jazz (ECM, 1992), sensitively backed by the drummer. When he wishes, Toyozumi possesses more of a jazz feel than many Japanese free drummers, perhaps as a consequence of his experience, and that meeting of minds is key to the success of this performance.

Track Listing: Creative Music 1 - Red Mountain Garden, Wild Irises And Glacier Lines; Burning Meditation - Uprising; Voices - Agano River Flow; Don Cherry, A Silver Flute Song; There Are Human Rights Blues; Stars, Lightning Bugs And Chrysanthemum Flowers.

Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, koto, bamboo flute, percussion; Sabu Toyozumi: drums.

Title: Burning Meditation | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records

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