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Wadada Leo Smith & TUMO: Occupy The World

John Sharpe By

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Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith continues to challenge preconceptions. With Occupy The World, he exposes another facet of his orchestral music; more expansive than his stunning Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform, 2012) and less earthy than Hearts Reflection (Cuneiform, 2011), it's still part of a long lineage of large group works stretching back to Budding Of A Rose (Moers Music, 1978) and Lake Biwa (Tzadik, 2004). Finland's TUM Records invited Smith to present five of his works in the capital of Helsinki, with the specially convened 22-strong TUMO (or Todella Uuden Musiikin Orkesteri: in English, the Really New Music Orchestra), drawn from cream of Finnish jazz and contemporary players and beyond, including well known names such as flautist Juhani Aaltonen, Swedish saxophonist Fredrik Ljungqvist (Atomic) and Danish drummer Stefan Pasborg.

Recorded in the studio on the days following the initial performance, each cut unfolds through multiple sections, with the feel of a chamber gathering rather than a big band, although electric guitars are as prominent as the more traditional strings. As with his solo work, Smith's writing makes telling use of silence—despite otherwise densely marshaled ensembles being awash with spontaneous detail. The trumpeter and long time colleague John Lindberg, are the principal soloists, with the drama and precision of the bassist's slashing bow work on "Mount Kilimanjaro" being one of the set's highlights. Smith deals largely in declamatory gestures, his majestic understated lyricism infused with a blues tint, whatever the actual notes. Other members of the orchestra feature, albeit more fleetingly, in the freeform passages which percolate the program, notably pianist Seppo Kantonen's flinty accents and Mikko Innanen's keening vocalized alto saxophone on the opening "Queen Hatshepsut."

As with recent issues from the label, the double CD set is sumptuously packaged with copious photographs and liner notes, including biographies of the leading participants as well as informative background on each piece by Smith. Such explication reveals much about Smith's methods, such as his reuse and recycling of other scores—"The Bell—2" is based upon his first recorded composition, documented on saxophonist Anthony Braxton's Three Compositions of New Jazz (Delmark, 1968): by turns swirling, sprightly and reflective. On the 33-minute title track, Smith blends angular string figures, monolithic orchestral slabs, bombastic drums and unruly collectives to create a sprawling canvas against which he juxtaposes the quiet dignity of his breathy trumpet squeals. In terms of effect, it captures the ambience of the entire recital—mysterious, yet bursting with humanity—disclosing new dimensions on each listen.

Track Listing: Queen Hatshepsut; The Bell - 2; Mount Kilimanjaro (Love And Compassion For John Lindberg); Crossing On A Southern Road (A Memorial For Marion Brown); Occupy The World For Life, Liberty And Justice.

Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, conductor, soloist (1, 2, 4, 5); John Lindberg: bass, soloist (3); Verneri Pohjola: trumpet and electronics; Jari Hongisto: trombone; Kalle Hassinen: horn; Kenneth Ojutkangas: tuba; Juhani Aaltonen: flute, alto flute, bass flute and piccolo; Fredrik Ljungqvist: tenor and sopranino saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet; Mikko Innanen: alto, soprano and baritone saxophones; Seppo Kantonen piano; Iro Haarla harp; Mikko Iivanainen: electric guitar; Kalle Kalima electric guitar; Veli Kujala: quarter-tone accordion; Terhi Pylkkänen: violin; Niels Thorkild Levinsen: violin; Barbora Hilpo: viola; Iida-Vilhelmiina Laine: cello; Ulf Krokfors: double bass; Janne Tuomi: drums and marimba; Mika Kallio: drums; Stefan Pasborg: drums.

Title: Occupy The World | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: TUM Records


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