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Wadada Leo Smith: Trumpet

Karl Ackermann By

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Wadada Leo Smith: Trumpet
In a half-century of recording, he has never stopped exploring the parameters of the form and instrument. Listening to composer/trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith is demanding but rewarding. His inspirations are classical in the small 'c' sense: the AACM, Persian music, August Wilson, Stravinsky, spirituals, and so on. Before the masses woke, Smith's music had incorporated political, cultural, spiritual, and environmental awareness. The elder statesman of new music continues his prolific output with TUM Records box sets for the first half of 2021. His Sacred Ceremonies three-disc release features bassist Bill Laswell and the late drummer Milford Graves, in duo and trio combinations. Trumpet, also a three-CD set, is solo Smith.

Smith began his recording career with a solo album, Creative Music (TMS Records, 1971). It was later included on the four-disc Kabell Years (Tzadik, 2004), along with Solo Music: Ahkreanvention (Kabell, 1979). More recently, Smith recorded his interpretations of Thelonious Monk compositions, and Monk-inspired originals, on Solo: Reflections And Meditations On Monk (TUM, 2017).

Where Smith's playing has always shone brightest is in the difficult-to-play lower register. He opens the first disc there with "Albert Ayler," a piece that reflects the trumpeter's appreciation of the saxophonist's spirituality. The five-part "The Great Litany—A Reflective Memory of al-Shadhili" is a highlight of this collection. Across nearly twenty minutes, Smith pays tribute to the thirteenth-century founder of the Sufi order of Sunni Islam. The suite is thoughtful and substantive. Of equal length is "Discourses on the Sufi Path—A Remembrance of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh." In four movements, Smith celebrates Nurbakhsh's influence over his practice of Islam. A final suite, "Family—A Contemplation of Love," reflects the natural development of that unit through the similar growth of the music.

Trumpet was recorded at Saint Mary's Church in Pohja, Finland, in the summer of 2020; the acoustics adding further weight to Smith's opulent, dazzling tone. Much of the two-plus hours is somber but uplifting. Smith's compositions are sophisticated and expressive, his playing, clear as a bell. A bonus with the box set is the striking self-portrait cover art. Highly recommended.

Track Listing

Disc 1: 01 Albert Ayler / 02-06 Rashomon: Parts 1-5 / 07 Howard and Miles - A Photographic Image / 08 Metallic Rainbow (For Steve McCall) / 09 Sauna - A Healthy Journey (For Petri) Disc 2: 01 Malik al-Shabazz and the People of the Shahada / 02-06 The Great Litany - A Reflective Memory of al-Shadhili: Parts 1-5 / 07 Leroy Jenkins Violin Expressions / 08 James Baldwin - No Name in the Street; War / 09 Amina Claudine Myers Disc 3: 01 Sonic Night - Night Colors (For Reggie Workman) / 02-05 Discourses on the Sufi Path - A Remembrance of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh: Parts 1-4 / 06-09 Family - A Contemplation of Love: Parts 1- 4 / 10 Trumpet

Personnel

Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet.

Album information

Title: Trumpet | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: TUM Records

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