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Wadada Leo Smith, Bill Laswell, and Milford Graves: Sacred Ceremonies & Trumpet

Mike Jurkovic By

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The 1960's and '70s held such promise, but many artists settle for what is handed down. Two new box sets featuring Wadada Leo Smith with Bill Laswell and Milford Graves show three visionaries willing to build on those promises without compromise.

Wadada Leo Smith with MIlford Graves and Bill Laswell
Sacred Ceremonies
TUM Records
2021

Recorded in three days during three separate sessions at Laswell's West Orange, New Jersey studio in the foreboding years of 2015 and 2016, the three-disc Sacred Ceremonies is just that: an event sharing sacred, indisputable truths (not alternate facts) about ourselves, our actions and the debris we've left behind.

Smith's trumpet and Graves' drums jump into the fray headfirst. From there, other possibilities are examined, quarreled over, fever-pitched, and kilned. Each man acts as an equal. No voice is louder than the other. Dedicated to Graves— who passed earlier this year —the music performed is nothing less than a democracy of merit and fearless imaginings, with each man making do by creating art.

Smith's horn has always rung the seminal human cry, but it truly morphs into the universal voice throughout Sacred Ceremonies (as well as the three-disc solo collection Trumpet discussed below). Each solo, duo, and trio on Sacred Ceremonies speaks volumes. Where Graves's percussion and Smith explore the spiritual rhythms that tie us all together, Laswell's bass and Smith investigate the ambiance between moments, the delicate shifts of light in the ether that either set us straight or knock us off-kilter and the tectonic whispers that declare us fruitful, wasteful or just harvesting memes.

Smith, Laswell, and Graves don't hear the cackle of cable news, commercials, or spend hours on their connected devices. The trio forges on unapologetically, challenging the placid to dream. Free radical forms like "Social Justice: A Fire for Reimagining the World," "Myths of Civilizations and Revolutions," "The Healer's Direct Energy," and "Waves of Elevated Horizontal Forces" are elemental, collective expansions of tone and tonic equilibrium.

Wadada Leo Smith
Trumpet
TUM Records
2021

If God wasn't listening to Smith before (though it's pretty sure he was and has been), then the three-disc Trumpet will right that wrong. Recorded at St. Mary's Church, a 500-year-old stone structure in the town of Pohja, Finland during 2016, the trumpeter pleads, prays, and testifies— sometimes all in one beautiful expression like "Metallic Rainbow (For Steve McCall)." Music this pure, personified and sustained is a rarity no matter what form it takes.

Tracks and Personnel

Sacred Ceremonies

Tracks: Nyoto 1; Nyoto 2; Nyoto 3; Baby Dodds In Congo Square; Celebration Rhythms; Poetic Sonics; The Poet: Play Ebony, Play Ivory (For Henry Dumas); Ascending the Sacred Waterfall: A Ceremonial Practice; Prince: The Blue Diamond Spirit; Donald Ayler's Rainbow Summit; Tony Williams; Mysterious Night; Earth: A Morning Song; Minnie Riperton: The Chicago Bronzeville Master Blaster; Social Justice—A Fire for Reimagining the World; Myths of Civilizations and Revolutions; Truth in Expansion' The Healer's Direct Energy; Waves of Elevated Horizontal Forces; An Epic Journey Inside the Center of Color; Ruby Red Largo: A Sonnet.

Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet; Bill Laswell: bass; Milford Graves: drums and percussion.

Trumpet

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

Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith; trumpet.

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