320

Wadada Leo Smith / Ed Blackwell: The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer

Clifford Allen By

Sign in to view read count
Wadada Leo Smith / Ed Blackwell: The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer Since the Ornette Coleman Quartet's The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atlantic, 1959), the trumpet's historical bar in creative music has been set in great part by Don Cherry. Not that Cherry's way was the only way and, in fact, the work of Bill Dixon, Donald Ayler, Lester Bowie, and a few others certainly paved significant directions for the instrument's place and growth in the ensuing decades. But Cherry, even as his language was a condensed, rambunctious and decidedly expansive nod to Central Avenue bebop, inspired a reassessment of phrase and space, especially in the piano-less groups which flourished in the "free" Sixties.

Though Cherry and percussionist/frequent collaborator Ed Blackwell each made statements in their oeuvres more powerful than the BYG Actuel double-LP set Mu (recorded at Studio Saravah in Paris in 1969), these two records began to show a side of Cherry's work that many had not yet heard—specifically his embrace of non-Western music. Seventeen years later, Blackwell and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith—another artist whose work has expanded the instrument's reach—waxed a series of ten duets for Brandeis University Radio in Boston, finally seeing release now as The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer, on Smith's revitalized Kabell Records imprint.

Smith's sense of orchestration has always seemed entirely different from Cherry's, whether in a solo or group context. The phrasing of both sound and silence, ever natural, has always appeared utterly poised, pinched and cutting front-porch paeans to downriver ancestry wrapped into a massive, fluffed whole. But it would be difficult to look at this set of duos without thinking of Mu, even when conscious of the contrast between the pairings. Blackwell obviously plays quite differently with Smith, in a fashion that's certainly pared down from the lickety-split continual reorganization of rhythms encountered on Mu. That said, subtle gradations of circular rhythms and breathy imperfect stutters on "Seven Arrows in the Garden of Light" are a perfect example of how incredibly delicate and masterful his forms are. While Smith's approach to rhythm deals with an entirely different type of patterning—contrasts in short succession implying movement and building towards a curious sense of mass and structure—Blackwell's skeletal support provides an alternative, cyclical interpretation of rhythm units.

Of course, Blackwell's playing is full and nearly explosive at times, swaggering through "Buffalo People: A Blues Ritual Dance," on which Smith's unwavering, steely tone is both call and soliloquy, slicing across an easy, rolling swing. Slash and chatter become "Albert Ayler in a Spiritual Light," the most Mu-esque improvisation here, though the trumpet blasts are thicker and perhaps hotter. Comparison doesn't—or shouldn't—serve the Smith/Blackwell duets too much; they're clearly setting their own series of vibrations, what with the interspersed soul-poems and kalimba-rimshot fragments offering curious interludes among a singular, albeit subtly shifting brass and percussion dialogue. Whatever the reason for its nearly quarter-century absence from the available discography, it's fantastic to have The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer present today.


Track Listing: Uprising; Love; Seeds of a Forgotten Flower; The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer; Mto: The Celestial River; Don't You Remember; Sellassie-I; Seven Arrows in the Garden of Light; Buffalo People: A Blues Ritual Dance; Albert Ayler in a Spiritual Light

Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, kalimba, voice. Ed Blackwell: drums.

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Kabell Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read This Is Nate Najar CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Joy Comes Back CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Apocalypse CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Navigation Without Numbers" CD/LP/Track Review Navigation Without Numbers
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 3, 2016
Read "New Shoots" CD/LP/Track Review New Shoots
by Mike Oppenheim
Published: March 10, 2016
Read "Tales From A Forbidden Land" CD/LP/Track Review Tales From A Forbidden Land
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 1, 2017
Read "Spring Feelings" CD/LP/Track Review Spring Feelings
by Andrew Luhn
Published: March 17, 2016
Read "Old Locks And Irregular Verbs" CD/LP/Track Review Old Locks And Irregular Verbs
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 18, 2016
Read "Momentum" CD/LP/Track Review Momentum
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: September 22, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!