1,442

Wadada Leo Smith: A Vital Life Force

Lyn Horton By

Sign in to view read count
Chapter Index
  1. An Average Day Plus
  2. The Essentials
  3. The Music. The Trumpet
  4. Rhythm Units
  5. The Sound
  6. The Scores
  7. The Pacifica Panel
  8. The Performance
  9. The Records
  10. And Lastly


An Average Day Plus

When Smith is not working, either in rehearsal or teaching at California Institute of the Arts, an average day begins between 3:30 and 4:45 am. "I wake up very early, then, I wash up. Before you do prayer, you have to purify yourself. Then I usually do prayer and read the Koran. This takes about one hour. Then I drive to the Mosque which takes about 15 minutes." Being Muslim, in order to remain Muslim, he must pray five times a day. In the Mosque, a place of prayer, reading and discussions, "I do prayer, and after prayer is finished we read from the Traditions of the Prophet, which teaches how to do things and then from the Koran, which is the language of the religion and talks about how the religion should be followed."

Of prayer, reading and recitation of the Koran, he says, "all these practices are meditational." After visiting the Mosque, Smith drives to the beach which is close to his home. He takes a walk until he sees the sunrise at about 7:15 or so. And "that is the perfect beginning of a perfect day."

Smith explains that he "leaned towards spiritual ideas from the very beginning," as a young child. The idea of the spiritual, for him, works outside of religion: literally, it is a sense of "uplifted-ness...that urgent feeling of feeling beautiful about everyone you meet. The human being has a quality not often tapped into, but can be. If you take a little bit of time to develop the spiritual side of [your] nature, seek to find relationship [then] there is a chance of [having] fair and beautiful relationships. To have a spiritual connection with your life, that is more than belief."

His walk concludes about 8:30 in the morning. Upon returning home, he may eat breakfast and then "I usually work on composition, do a little bit of research, a little bit of planning, take some time to organize myself, get things done, try to have a little time for myself. From sunrise to noon, I am vitalized for creative work." His research is either personal or for his classes. Personal research involves investigating the nature of sound. At the time of this interview, Smith was reading On The Sensation of Tone, published in 1870 (English, 1875), written by the German physicist Hermann Helmholtz. Smith's research for classes includes finding information on the subjects he covers in his Seminar on African-American Music, which he teaches every other semester. At the time of this interview, the subject of the seminar was Michael Jackson. Over a period of seventeen years of teaching, he has looked into a wide range of artists from Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington to Count Basie and Ray Charles. One day a week, Smith spends six hours "receiving students in his office, giving private lessons on what improvisation is about, what performance is about, and how to improve as composers."

If he is lucky enough to have leisure time in his day, he likes "taking a book, crawling up on the couch and reading." He reads books with spiritual and political content. He chuckles when he says that he also reads about conspiracies. He continues in this vein: "I am a weird little guy. I like books on Saints, too." He has read The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama and was inspired to write music by a book about 9-11. When he does not choose to read, he takes a walk or a nap: "I consider those the charms of leisure time."

Before his day ends, Smith "fixes food. I cook and eat organic foods, all kinds of beans and peas. The green, red, orange, white vegetables. Real rice, that is; black, red, brown and white, and whole grain foods. Pastas, cheeses, tofu-food and fish. I am a very good cook."

At sunset, he goes to bed; sleep becomes a transition to the next perfect day.

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Rosa Parks: Pure Love

Rosa Parks: Pure Love

Wadada Leo Smith
Rosa Parks: Pure Love

Monk and His Five Point Ring at the Five Spot Cafe

Monk and His Five Point Ring at the Five Spot Cafe

Wadada Leo Smith
Solo: Reflections and...

Najwa

Najwa

Wadada Leo Smith
Najwa

Dred Scott: 1857

Dred Scott: 1857

Wadada Leo Smith
Ten Freedom Summers

South Central L.A. Kulture

South Central L.A. Kulture

Wadada Leo Smith
Spiritual Dimensions

Album Reviews
Year in Review
Multiple Reviews
Year in Review
Album Reviews
Live From New York
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Burning Meditation

Burning Meditation

NoBusiness Records
2018

buy
Araminta

Araminta

Sunnyside Records
2017

buy
Najwa

Najwa

TUM Records
2017

buy
Ocean of Storms

Ocean of Storms

Self Produced
2017

buy

Related Articles

Read Jeff Chambers' Chosen Alternative: The Therapies of Tijuana Profiles
Jeff Chambers' Chosen Alternative: The Therapies of Tijuana
By Arthur R George
May 31, 2019
Read Omar Sosa: Building Bridges Not Walls Profiles
Omar Sosa: Building Bridges Not Walls
By Duncan Heining
May 2, 2019
Read Unforgettable: Nat King Cole at 100 Profiles
Unforgettable: Nat King Cole at 100
By Peter Coclanis
March 17, 2019
Read Robert Lewis Heads the Charleston's Jazz Orchestra Profiles
Robert Lewis Heads the Charleston's Jazz Orchestra
By Rob Rosenblum
January 27, 2019
Read The Complete Jan Akkerman: Focusing on a Life's Work Profiles
The Complete Jan Akkerman: Focusing on a Life's Work
By John Kelman
November 24, 2018