Wadada Leo Smith and TUMO: Wadada Leo Smith: Occupy the World

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Great trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith's five epic extended compositions collected on the double album Occupy The World mark him as a major American composer with a musical language and artistic vision that transcends the boundaries of the Afro-American heritage of jazz. Smith wrote complex orchestral works before, most notably on the masterful, extensive 4-discs Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform, 2012), that addressed political and historical issues still, the expanded and rearranged works represent a new musical triumph within the already large body of compositions of this prolific and gifted musician.

Smith's confounded complex written segments were arranged for a 22- piece Nordic ensemble—TUMO, or Todella Uuden Musiikin Orkesteri (in English, the Really New Music Orchestra), augmented with Smith's close collaborator, bassist John Lindberg—with conducted and collective improvised parts. This musical meeting enables Smith to apply and mix compositional and conducted improvisation methods that he experienced and employed as a player with the large ensembles organized by Chicago´s AACM in the 1960s, Anthony Braxton´s Creative Music Orchestra in the 1970s, the early free improvised meetings of the European Company, the sophisticated orchestral concepts of other European ensembles as Globe Unity Orchestra and Barry Guy orchestras and his own 15-member Silver Orchestra.

The collaboration with TUMO is inspired from beginning to end. TUMO performed for the first time at the TUM records affiliated TUM festival in Helsinki, Finland, in February 2012 under the leadership of Smith. TUMO is not intended to become an institutionalized orchestra, but a loose aggregation of musicians with a shared interest in creative improvised music. TUMO has developed a very strong North European identity, temperament and sound that is different from any other ensemble that Smith has worked with before, including its approach to rhythm, a key element in Smith's composition, improvisation and articulation. This ensemble features some of the leading and most creative improvisers in Finland and the Nordic region, coming from different generations and backgrounds, many of them leaders of their own bands and composers in their own right, among them Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, saxophonist Mikko Innanen, flutist Juhani Aaltonen, harpist Iro Haarla with Swedish saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist and Danish drummer Stefan Pasborg.

The five compositions reflect on Smith's history as a musician, his interests and his unique concepts of balancing between multiple composed and improvised shapes. The first composition, "Queen Hatshepsut," is dedicated to the fifth pharaoh in ancient Egypt (1508- -1458 BC), the first true female ruler of a major civilization in world history. This dramatic composition attempts to mirror the majestic and ceremonial royal courts of Egypt through three sections that involve composite scores that are used to construct their spontaneous individual improvisations, often with Eastern-tinged flavors. The second composition is a new and expanded arrangement of Smith's composition for Braxton's quartet from 3 Compositions of New Jazz (Delmark, 1968). The new version contrasts the imaginative usage of electronics played by Pohjola with the varied sonic spectrums of each the instrumental families, while featuring impressive solos by Smith, Kalima, tuba player Kenneth Ojutkangas and Pohjola, now on trumpet. "Mount Kilimanjaro (Love And Compassion For John Lindberg)," that concludes the first disc, is a sister composition to Smith's "The Africana World," which was recorded by the Silver Orchestra. This intense composition stresses how Lindberg inspired improvisations on the bass later correspond with musical elements that flow from the composed parts for the ensemble, culminating with the three drummers soloing together.

The second disc opens with the somber composition, "Crossing On A Southern Road (A Memorial For Marion Brown)," dedicated to the late saxophonist who was a close friend of Smith. This composition suggests multiple intersections that involve soloists and small units of the large ensemble, as of the strings or brass instruments, and later larger collective improvisations, all together weave the dense crossings into a nuanced, multi-layered texture. The majestic musical journey reaches its climax on "Occupy The World For Life, Liberty And Justice," inspired by the recent protests all over the world about the growing economic disparity. This composition was originally commissioned and premiered by the Oxford Improvisers Orchestra (OIO) in November 2011, and later performed by the Silver Orchestra on the two-day celebration of Smith´s 70th birthday in December 2011. The new expanded version of this soulful composition demands from both Smith, as the conductor and one of its main soloists, as well as from the ensemble to experience its construction from different written fragments during its live performance. This composition features what Smith calls "black holes"—spaces where the musicians collectively enter unchartered territory and are asked to find their way forward around the edge of these "holes."

Majestic, challenging and a most beautiful achievement.

Track Listing: CD 1: Queen Hatshepsut; The Bell - 2; Mount Kilimanjaro (Love And Compassion For John Lindberg). CD 2: Crossing On A Southern Road (A Memorial For Marion Brown); Occupy The World For Life, Liberty And Justice.

Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, conductor, soloist (1, 2, 4, 5); John Lindberg: bass, soloist (3); Verneri Pohjola: trumpet and electronics; Jari Hongisto: trombone; Kalle Hassinen: horn; Kenneth Ojutkangas: tuba; Juhani Aaltonen: flute, alto flute, bass flute and piccolo; Fredrik Ljungqvist: tenor and sopranino saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet; Mikko Innanen: alto, soprano and baritone saxophones; Seppo Kantonen piano; Iro Haarla harp; Mikko Iivanainen: electric guitar; Kalle Kalima electric guitar; Veli Kujala: quarter-tone accordion; Terhi Pylkkänen: violin; Niels Thorkild Levinsen: violin; Barbora Hilpo: viola; Iida-Vilhelmiina Laine: cello; Ulf Krokfors: double bass; Janne Tuomi: drums and marimba; Mika Kallio: drums; Stefan Pasborg: drums.

Title: Wadada Leo Smith: Occupy the World | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: TUM Records

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