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Wadada Leo Smith and Amina Claudine Myers: Central Park's Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens

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Wadada Leo Smith and Amina Claudine Myers: Central Park's Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens
On Central Park's Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens, trumpeter/composer Wadada Leo Smith and keyboardist/composer Amina Claudine Myers evince as much curiosity as passion for their subject(s). This is the first recorded collaboration between the two, but they were both early members of AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). And besides Smith's familiarity with the duo format—The Emerald Duets (Tum Records, 2022)—he had composed a paean to the (now) newly-minted NEA Jazz Master keyboardist in 2015, titling the piece with her name to reaffirm his admiration and respect.

In a real sense, then, this thirty-six plus minutes is almost a preordained occasion. With six of the seven pieces composed by Smith and one by Myers, their respective lines of thought intertwine much like the sounds they elicit from their instruments; that is, tempered by both experience and expertise.

Vividly conjuring images of the New York City landmark on "Conservatory Gardens" for instance, Smith and Myers capture the internal rhythms as well as the visual imagery of the metropolis' magnificent tourist attraction. Those varied sensations unfold from the playing with as much deep and abiding purpose as the thoughts and observations in John Corbett's essay in the eight-page booklet.

All the content, like the Hammond B3 organ-based "Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir" or the section of prose titled "Buoyancy and Light," is enlightening in its own way. The writing moves as deliberately and gracefully as the horn and piano on "Central Park At Sunset," to name just one number. And while the languor of that cut belies its somewhat abrupt close, it nonetheless mirrors the inexorable creation of the Big Apple's land and waterscapes as reflected in Central Park's Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens. As if in a dance of ballet all its own, the author's verbiage gains logic with each passing paragraph.

It is an absolutely uncanny symmetry reflecting the partnership of Smith and Myers. The insight is keen at every turn, unencumbered by flowery language, illuminated instead by the Chicago-based renaissance man's deceptively plain-spoken style, his choices of words as carefully etched as passages in the musicianship.

To wit, circular patterns from the respective instruments intertwine in slow motion on "The Harlem Meer." Overlapping and only implicitly resolving like the lines in Laura Arteaga Charlton's pastel cover art, that plentiful detail was captured through Joseph Branciforte's astute engineering at Sear Sound, while the mastering by Alex Bonney preserves audio as picturesque as a panoramic photograph of the landmark itself.

Accordingly, the progression of the record's selections are less like a time-elapsed series than snapshots from a variety of vantage points. Still, "Imagine, a mosaic for John Lennon" radiates a sense of closure fitting its subject as well as the longplayer which it concludes. The sounds of Wadada Leo Smith's trumpet and Amina Claudine Myers' piano mesh faultlessly, contoured by time to fit together without friction, but instead with the finality of (an almost but not quite) unfathomable destiny.

Track Listing

Conservatory Garden; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir; Central Park at Sunset; When Was; The Harlem Meer; Albert Ayler, a meditation in light; Imagine, a mosaic for John Lennon.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Amina Claudine Myers: organ (2)

Album information

Title: Central Park’s Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Red Hook Records


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