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Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets

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Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets
Wadada Leo Smith's music is often celestial, but the man himself is of this Earth—of America, in particular, the progeny of people brought to the Western Hemisphere involuntarily. People who have historically been treated as less than human, for the "sin" of having dark skin. This goes on. The true sin, the flames of racism, are stoked by a former and possibly future (God help us all) president—a cruel, sociopathic, immoral, dishonest racist.

Wadada Leo Smith is America. An artist, to all appearances, at peace, a man without bitterness or rancor concerning those who would relegate him to second class status. He is here to create art, and he does so, prolifically: Sacred Ceremonies (2021), Trumpet (2021), The Chicago Symphonies (2021) String Quartets Nos. 1 -12 (2022), and now The Emerald Duets (2022). All of these were released on TUM Records, and this is just his boxed sets—seventeen CDs in total. A celebration of his eighty years on planet Earth.

Emerald Duets is a five CD set that features the trumpeter teamed with four different drummers—Pheeroan AkLaff, Andrew Cyrille, Han Bennink and—on two CDs—Jack DeJohnette. All are veterans of the avant- garde, with DeJohnnette boasting a good deal more straight ahead cred from his long tenure in Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio. All of these masters make the drums sing; they can make the drum kit pull the music in the direction of the cosmic, especially in the company of Wadada Leo Smith. It is often said that a piano is a one player orchestra. The same can be said for the drum set, especially on The Emerald Duets, with its spacious approach thats let nuance and subtlety take center stage.

The first disc is called Litanies, Prayers, and Meditations, a title that describes, perfectly and especially, Smith's duo work with drummers—a patient delivery of ideas, either well-considered or off the cuff, the feeling of an experience of profundity, with an often stark sound—Wadada Leo Smith the center of some sonic solar system, with the bumps and rattles and splashes rolls of the drummers serving as orbiting satellites: rocky worlds, gas giants, innumerable asteroids, all suspended in the vastness of space, obeying the immutable laws of gravity.

Now, for "The Patriot Act, Unconstitutional and A Force That Destroys Democracy." It is a Smith composition that appears three times on The Emerald Duets—once each with drummers akLaff, Cyrille and DeJohnnette. The rights-eroding law was passed after the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City. Each take on the tune has a different flavor. All of them have a sense of velvet glove defiance, of subdued turbulence and unwavering resolve. Smith is a political artist, and he is also a champion of the underdog, and of the resilience of the human spirit, an American artist synchronized completely with his internal drummer, and with the beautiful and expansive complexities of akLaff, Bennink, Cyrille and DeJohnette.

In addition to the trumpet and drum sounds, Smith and DeJohnette play piano of two of the discs, adding a sweetening of percussive expression to the mix.

Fully understanding Wadada Leo Smith may be impossible—he seems extraordinarily deep, but a read of his song titles below can shed some light on his mindset, his vision of the world.

Track Listing

Disc 1: Litanies, Prayers and Meditations: The Prayer (For Keith Jarrett); First Meditation from the Heart; the Beauty and the Beloved; The Uyghur in Xinjiang, China; Rumi’s Masnavi: A Sonic Expression, Parts I - IV; A Sound Litany on Peace; The Patriot Act: Unconstitutional and a Force That Destroys Democracy; A Sonic Litany on Justice; Second Meditation from the Heart: the Beloved, The Beauty. Disc 2: Havana: The Patriot Act: Unconstitutional and a Force that Destroys Democracy; Havana, the Maghrib Prayer and Reflections;United States Representative Ilhan Omar; Jeanne Lee: In a Jupiter Mood; Donald Ayer: The Master of Sound and Energy Forms; A Rainbow Sonic Ark for Tomasz Ludwik Stanko (1942 - 2018); Haitian Independent Nation in 1804 But Not Recognized by Britain, France, Germany, the United States and Others: A Designed Tragedy; Mongeze Fezi. Disc 3: Mysterious Sonic Fields: Chrysanthemum F On a Moutaintop (for Katherein Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson; Largo: a Mysterious Love Sonic (forShana, Robson andSarah); Louis Armstrong in New York City and Accra, ghana; Ornette Coleman at the World’s Fair of Science and Art in Fort Worth, Texas; The Call—A Duet Between Joseph “King” Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton; Light Garden in a Dream Space, A Remembrance of Shaba of Ethiopia; Han Bennink on Fifth Avenue, NYC; Johnny Dyani: the Artist who Imagined a New South Africa—a Celebration. Disc 4: Freedom Summer: The Legacy:Sandalwood and Sage; Freedom Summer; Meditation: A Sonic Circle of Double Piano Resonance; The Patriot Act: Unconstitutional and a Force that Destroys Democracy; Silence, Quietness and Very Still. Disc 5: Paradise: The Gardens and Fountains: Part I: The River of Abundance; Part II: The Fountain of Tasnim; Part III: The Supreme Fountain; Part IV: Exaltation and Musk; Part V: Pomegranate and Herbal Teas.

Personnel

Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet; Han Bennink: drums; Andrew Cyrille: drums; Jack DeJohnette: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Wadada Leo Smith: piano, (Disc 1 & 4); Jack DeJohnette: piano, Fender Rhodes (Disc 4).

Album information

Title: The Emerald Duets | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: TUM Records

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