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Wadada Leo Smith: Lake Biwa

Rex  Butters By

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Lake Biwa presents Wadada Leo Smith's Silver Orchestra in four pieces that showcase the composer's startling originality and lofty inspiration. Peopled by some of New York's finest, including Anthony Coleman, Susie Ibarra, Marc Ribot, Craig Taborn, and John Zorn, the Orchestra moves through Smith's bright landscapes with grace and color, the soloists outright shredding when the occasion calls for it. Their skillful readings highlight the shimmering subtlety and abiding spirituality of the music.

Cello, piano, guitar, bass, and percussion reverently open the disc with the title track, cello and bass in unison. Piano, cello, and bass play a moving trio before the performance heats up with busier percussion and pointier piano. After a quiet moment, Smith's thick wah-wah trumpet snakes through, followed by Ribot's own dense tone on guitar. Free percussion punctuates their intertwining distortions, which fade out, returning the piece to the sparse chamber music of the opening section.

The longest of the four compositions, "Sanai's Enclosed Garden of the Truth" begins with dramatic piano and strings, the piano quickly telegraphing tension to a larger ensemble that includes Marcus Rojas on tuba and John Zorn ripping on alto. Ribot fires up to match Zorn's inflammatory solo, followed by a repetitious piano line that sets the stage for an extended ensemble meditation interrupted by Ribot's transmissions from space. Cellist Erik Friedlander and violinist Jennifer Choi introduce "Africana World" with edgy strings. Choi's extensive ruminations give way to an offtime ensemble groove that stretches and melts. She plays through a virtuoso series of variations that find their way back to the orchestra.

Tzadik's support of Wadada Leo Smith's compositional work continues to bear fruit with what may be his best collection yet for Zorn's fearlessly creative label.


Track Listing: Lake Biwa; Sanai's Enclosed Garden of the Truth; Diamondback Serpent in a House; Africana World.

Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet; Jennifer Choi: violin; Erik Friedlander: cello; John Lindberg, Wes Brown: bass; Marc Ribot: guitar; John Zorn: alto saxophone; Marcus Rojastuba; Anthony Coleman, Yuko Fujiyama, Craig Taborn, Jamie Saft: piano; Gerald Cleaver, Susie Ibarra: drums.

Title: Lake Biwa | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Tzadik


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