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Articles | Featured | Future

ALBUM REVIEWS

Wadada Leo Smith: Rosa Parks: Pure Love. An Oratorio of Seven Songs

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Acclaimed trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and educator Wadada Leo Smith has released an oratorio of seven songs inspired by the iconic civil rights leader Rosa Parks. In his own words, Rosa Parks: Pure Love. An Oratorio of Seven Songs is “concerned with ideas of freedom, liberty and justice, a meditation centered around the civil rights movement." Looking at Smith's more than 50 years of creative and artistic vision, this release is yet another inspired organic musical direction that has established him ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Wadada Leo Smith: Rosa Parks: Pure Love

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Like several exceptional modern era composers from Ornette Coleman to John Zorn to Tyshawn Sorey, the “jazz" appellation has only anecdotal application to the latter-day calling of Wadada Leo Smith as a composer. On his previous Cuneiform releases Ten Freedom Summers (2012) and America's National Parks (2016), Smith worked with an ear toward confronting injustice and raising social awareness of issues that share a broad platform. He continues in that vein with Rosa Parks: Pure Love , subtitled “An Oratorio ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Wadada Leo Smith: Najwa

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Trumpet player Wadada Leo Smith is one of the few musicians remaining from the original, founding generation of Chicago's legendary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. But he has hardly rested since; Smith's Ten Freedom Summers (2012, Cuneiform) was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music; in 2017, Smith swept the Downbeat Critics' Poll for Trumpeter, Artist, and Album (America's National Parks, [Cuneiform]) of the Year, and he was named Musician of the Year by the Jazz ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk & Najwa

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Wadada Leo Smith's most recently recorded albums reaffirm this trumpeter/composer/bandleader's deep, abiding loyalty to his muse. Equally so on stage or in the studio, Smith's devotion to the creative impulse is absolutely unwavering, and, as a result, his works are pure, direct expressions of his concepts, undiluted by compromise. Such is the uniformity of his execution that Smith can take diverse approaches as represented by these two TUM records, one of which is a solo album in homage to Thelonious ...

YEAR IN REVIEW

Karl Ackermann's Best Releases of 2017

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2017 was an exceptional year for artists who elude convention; veterans such as Wadada Leo Smith and relative newcomers like Abdul Moimême gave us unique musical insights. It was an outstanding year for solo recordings. Along with Smith and Moimême, Rob Mazurek, Matthew Shipp, Irish multi-instrumentalist Aine O'Dwyer, Cuban pianist Aruán Ortiz, Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia, and Satoko Fujii were just a few of the creative artists that gave life to singular global perspectives. (Selections are not ranked.)

ALBUM REVIEWS

Wadada Leo Smith: Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk

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The most fitting tribute to Thelonious Monk on the 100th anniversary of his birth was not by a pianist, but by a trumpeter, and not any ordinary trumpeter. Wadada Leo Smith, like Monk, is a musician's musician. While his peers have seemingly always investigated his music, it took the listening audience (and, ahem, critics) awhile to catch up on his music. After his Pulitzer Prize nomination in 2013, for Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform, 2012), the proverbial flood gates opened on ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Wadada Leo Smith: Najwa

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Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith is no stranger to plugged-in performance. Like Ornette Coleman and Miles Davis, his musical systems prove just as applicable to electronic as to all-acoustic environments. Indeed one of Smith's earliest such immersions was Yo Miles! inspired by Miles' 1970s guitar shredding bands. Multiple electric strings have also formed an integral part of his Organic ensemble, as heard on Spiritual Dimensions (Cuneiform, 2009) and Heart's Reflections (Cuneiform, 2011). So Najwa with its quartet of electric guitarists fits ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Wadada Leo Smith: Najwa

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Wadada Leo Smith has been on an amazingly productive streak the last few years, creating ambitious work for all kinds of configurations, large orchestras, string ensembles, quartets, duos and solo. About the only format he hadn't explored lately was the dense electronic jazz-rock he's played in the past with his groups Organic and Yo! Miles. With Najwa he finally returns to that format, heading a group featuring four guitarists, two percussionists, his own trumpet and the weighty bass guitar of ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Wadada Leo Smith: Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk

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In the hundredth anniversary year of Thelonious Monk's birth, there won't be many better or more heartfelt tributes than this solo recital by trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. In an astonishing late career flowering Smith has released a string of stupendous recordings for everything from large ensembles to intimate duets, with his monumental Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform, 2012) the standout entry. But Solo: Reflections And Meditations On Monk constitutes his first unaccompanied outing since Red Sulphur Sky (Tzadik, 2001). ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Wadada Leo Smith: Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk

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Wadada Leo Smith comes to the music of Thelonious Monk from a childhood admiration of the artist. As a pre-teen he was already playing trumpet and composing and instinctively knew that Monk's understanding of music and sound would influence his own creativity. Smith believes that the quintessence of Monk can best be found in his solo work. The same can be said for Smith who has produced two previous solo collections including Creative Music--1 (1972) and Solo Music: Ahkreanvention (1979), ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Wadada Leo Smith: Najwa

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Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's introductory liner notes to Najwa begin with Muddy Waters, so we'll begin there, too. Wadada Leo Smith was born in 1941, in Leland, Mississippi, around the time Alan Lomax showed up down in Clarksdale, Miss., to record--among many others--McKinley Morganfield, aka Muddy Waters. The Lomax field recordings of Waters and his band became the album Down On Stovall's Plantation (Universe Records, 1966). It was an all acoustic affair. Then, shortly after these tunes were ...

LIVE FROM NEW YORK

Live From The New Stone School: Brandon Ross, Wadada Leo Smith, Bill Laswell & Susie Ibarra

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Phantom Station The Stone at The New School June 17, 2017 The Stone is pulling its shutters down for the last time, come the close of 2017. John Zorn's excellent Alphabet City corner venue has spent 12 years being an uncompromising centre for questioning music, but its mastermind has now found a new home closer to Manhattan's more visible core. It was announced earlier this year that The Stone concept would become ensconced at ...