All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

4

Wadada Leo Smith: London, England, August 27, 2012

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Wadada Leo Smith
Café Oto
London
August 27, 2012

As if searching for the perfect setting, for the second night of his two-day residency at north London's Café Oto, legendary AACM trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith was pitched against two contrasting ensembles drawn from the capital's reservoir of improvising talent. First up was a brass trio, supplemented by the electronics and melodica of Spring Heel Jack impresario, erstwhile guitarist John Coxon, while the second was a percussion threesome. Although Smith's work Stateside has revolved around working units such as his acclaimed Golden Quartet and his electric string orchestra Organic, interpreting his own compositions, culminating in the monumental Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform, 2012), in the UK he works almost exclusively in uncharted domains.

Smith has become an increasingly frequent visitor to the UK in recent years, a situation stemming initially from his invitation to contribute to Coxon's work as part of Spring Heel Jack, which produced The Sweetness Of Water (Thirsty Ear, 2004). Subsequently, he also recorded Abbey Road Quartet (Treader, 2007) with the guitarist and other improvisers. Since then the brass man's appearances have multiplied. He has worked with varied ad hoc amalgams, including as featured soloist with the London Improvisers' Orchestra, and most notably with the tandem percussion of South African Louis Moholo-Moholo and Steve Noble at Freedom of the City Festival festival in 2010, a gig lauded by many as one of the finest ever. Sadly even though the BBC documented that event, a technical glitch meant that their efforts were unusable, and so the event has passed into legend, propagated by the lucky few witnesses.

Once again, the BBC Outside broadcast van, parked in the street opposite, was on hand. Flanking the American for the first set, trumpeters Ian Smith and Byron Wallen, as well as trombonist Gail Brand, ranged across the stage, while Coxon was ensconced behind a bank of electronics to the rear. As the horns together conversed in an avuncular brass Americana, Coxon frequently invoked an ambient pulse which anchored the more abstract exchanges.

Though star of the show, Smith selected his contributions carefully, spending almost as much time listening to the interplay of his band mates, as making his own mark. Nonetheless, he was clearly the first among equals, as shown early on, when his breathy susurration was joined by the respectfully muted backing of the other three, overlapping like brassy tectonic plates. Not content with generating form with his own purposefully sculpted interventions, the American also at times orchestrated a series of sustained tones, as well as cueing solos and accompaniment, constructing fixed reference points amid the drifting extemporization.



The Dublin-born Ian Smith shaped unpredictable lines with whistles, squeaks and buzzes, an adventurous attitude shared by Brand, his colleague in the London Improvisers' Orchestra. In contrast, the much-traveled Wallen, a graduate of the Loose Tubes big band, favored a cooler more melodic approach on trumpet and flugelhorn. One passage of exquisite beauty saw the American's muted lyricism echoed supportively by Wallen and Brand, both also muted, and Ian Smith's waspish open trumpet and Coxon's melodica, which all gradually cohered into gently descending cadences like a sighing Greek chorus. Their superb set, conjured without either benefit or need of rehearsal, could have been much longer than its 35 minutes duration.

Smith returned for the second set, fronting a percussion troupe comprising Oto regular Noble and Charles Hayward, once of experimental rock band This Heat, behind twin trap sets, and Orphy Robinson, an alumnus of the Jazz Warriors, at a Xylosynth—a vibes-based synthesizer interface. Repeating the format of the previous evening, which split into acoustic and electric sets, Smith expanded his palette by utilizing a semicircle of effects pedals spread at his feet. However the drums had the privilege of starting the proceedings. After sitting and listening for a while, Smith stood and stepped forward, playing down into a mic with his foot on the volume pedal.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

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

CD/LP/Track Review
Best of / Year End
Multiple Reviews
Best of / Year End
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Araminta

Araminta

Sunnyside Records
2017

buy
Najwa

Najwa

TUM Records
2017

buy
Ocean of Storms

Ocean of Storms

Self Produced
2017

buy
America’s National Parks

America’s National...

Cuneiform Records
2016

buy
America's National Parks

America's National...

Cuneiform Records
2016

buy

Related Articles

Read The Magpie Salute At The Grand Point North Festival 2018 Live Reviews
The Magpie Salute At The Grand Point North Festival 2018
by Doug Collette
Published: September 23, 2018
Read Chris Isaak at The Paramount in Huntington, NY Live Reviews
Chris Isaak at The Paramount in Huntington, NY
by Christine Connallon
Published: September 23, 2018
Read Detroit Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Detroit Jazz Festival 2018
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews
Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia 2018 Live Reviews
Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia...
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 16, 2018
Read Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood Vampires, Black Asteroids & Paul Lamb Live Reviews
Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood...
by Martin Longley
Published: September 16, 2018
Read "Borneo Jazz Festival 2018" Live Reviews Borneo Jazz Festival 2018
by Wolfgang Konig
Published: May 26, 2018
Read "Molde International Jazz Festival 2018" Live Reviews Molde International Jazz Festival 2018
by Luca Vitali
Published: August 31, 2018
Read "Ann Hampton Callaway at Birdland" Live Reviews Ann Hampton Callaway at Birdland
by Tyran Grillo
Published: November 5, 2017
Read "Robinson Morse's Sound of Mind Featuring Peter Apfelbaum at FlynnSpace" Live Reviews Robinson Morse's Sound of Mind Featuring Peter...
by Doug Collette
Published: December 23, 2017
Read "Michelle Lordi at Philadelphia Museum of Art" Live Reviews Michelle Lordi at Philadelphia Museum of Art
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: June 10, 2018