More than 25 years have passed since the late, great bassist Peter Kowald introduced trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith to then East German drummer Günter Baby Sommer. The Chicago-Wuppertal-Dresden axis of three idiosyncratic and free-minded improvisers toured Europe and recorded one of the longstanding and seminal documents of European-American free improvisation, Touch The EarthBreak The Shells (Intakt, 1997). Smith and Sommer meet again for another set of intimate duets on Wisdom in Time, after touring in 2005 with bassist Barre Phillips (Kowald's mentor). It's a much more relaxed and peaceful atmosphere, yet still aims to balance space and continuum, meditation and expression, abstract and concrete.
It's clear from the opening track, "Sonic Voice Inclosed in the Sky," that both Smith and Sommer have perfected their musical language. Like the motto of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM) claims, "Ancient to the Future, they feature new sonic possibilities, incorporating electronics to their arsenal of sounds. Sommer's orchestral and super delicate approach completes the serene spiritualism of Smith, and both demonstrate assured playing and compassionate and imaginative interplay. It is quite a departure from the dense and urgent textures they played with Kowald, but at the same time this is a heartfelt homage to the irreplaceable bassist.
Smith and Sommer demonstrate their playful approach on "Tarantella Rusticana, an almost dance-based vibrating improvisation, on the more strict "Gassire's Lute, and on the swingy tribal groove of "Old Times Roll - New Times Goal. Both explore space and slow weightless movement on "Pure Stillness," and new sonorities and colors when Smith introduces the electronic modular system on "Woodland Trail to the Giants, a beautiful piece that references the soft sounds of the kalimba (African thumb piano) and binds these sounds with the more futuristic modulated trumpet for a passionate and slow dance. The use of electronics is much more apparent on "Rain Cycles, where Smith creates buzzing storms against the fragmented touches of the skins by Sommer.
Their dedication to Kowald, "Bass-Star Hemispheres," is truly magical; a beautifully played meditative melody that unfolds gently. The free, leisured and majestic phrases of Smith empower the quiet and multi-voiced drumming of Sommer, producing intense sounds that dip deeply into memory. The concluding piece, "A Silent Letter to Someone," is another fine demonstration of the multi-layered playing of these two masters, abstract and calm, but also energetic, concrete and always vital, passionate and thought-provoking. Magnificent.
A Sonic Voice Inclosed in the Wind; Tarantella Rusticana; Pure Stillness; Gassire's Lute; Woodland Trail to the Giants; Bass-Star Hemispheres (dedicated to P.K.); Rain Cycles; Old Times Roll - New Times Goal; A Silent Letter to Someone.
Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics; G