KIOS-FM

Last Call CD spotlight: Wadada Leo Smith/ America’s National Parks/ Cuneiform Records

Dec 16, 2016

Wadada Leo Smith celebrates his 75th birthday in December.  He's arguably one of the most important voices in Avant-Garde music. When you listen to one of Wadada Leo Smith's  recordings you will hear an artist who is more than capable of playing in the fearless, exhilarating style of Miles Davis in the late 1960s and 1970s--but charts his own direction based on decades of music performance, study and instruction.

Smith has recently released America's National Parks, now available on Cuneiform Records.

 America's National Parks, a 2-CD set,  is a six-movement suite in part inspired by the scenic splendor and historic legacy of the country’s public landscapes. Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quintet performs, featuring the acclaimed trumpeter with pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg and drummer Pheeroan akLaff, joined by cellist Ashley Walters.

It is truly epic in scope and at times profound in the use of space and texture. However,  it is not reflective or celebratory of the official narrative of these public spaces. In fact, in the recording's first selection, Smith presents the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans, as a national cultural park, a statement that this writer fully agrees with.  

Highlights of the program include "Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks: The Giant Forest, Great Canyon, Cliffs, Peaks, Waterfalls and Cave Systems 1890" and "Yellowstone: The First National Park and the Spirit of America - The Mountains, Super-Volcano Caldera and Its Ecosystem 1872". The grand nature of this music is not sentimental at all, but rather an honest sound portrait that draws the listener in for repeated encounters. The listener is taken into the great vistas paid tribute to here by amazing contrasts from moment to moment. Silence is contrasted by roaring passages and majestic mountaintop crescendos.

The tracks are:

Disc 1:
1. New Orleans: The National Culture Park USA 1718 (20:57)
2. Eileen Jackson Southern,1920-2002: A Literary National Park (9:38)
3. Yellowstone: The First National Park and the Spirit of America – The Mountains, Super-Volcano Caldera and Its Ecosystem 1872 (12:14)

Disc 2:
1. The Mississippi River: Dark and Deep Dreams Flow the River – a National Memorial Park c. 5000 BC (31:07)
2. Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks: The Giant Forest, Great Canyon, Cliffs, Peaks, Waterfalls and Cave Systems 1890 (6:46)
3. Yosemite: The Glaciers, the Falls, the Wells and the Valley of Goodwill 1890 (15:23)

Wadada Leo Smith says of the recording: "My focus is on the... idea of setting aside reserves for common property of the American citizens: those who have passed on before, those who are here in the present, and those who will come in the future. The...collective notion about common property, inheritance, longevity, transformation, and sustaining beauty down the line...”

It's another artistic triumph for the veteran trumpeter and bandleader, who has released a number of spectacular recordings recently, including Ten Freedom Summers   and The Great Lakes Suites, in addition to a recording with celebrated pianist Vijay Iyer,  A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke. 

For over 40 years, Wadada Leo Smith has been involved in creating and performing music at the cutting edge of jazz. Born December 18, 1941, after military service, he became an early member in 1967  of Chicago’s legendary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians(AACM).  Smith co-founded the Creative Construction Company, a trio with Leroy Jenkins and Anthony Braxton in the late 60s. Forming his own label in 1971, Kabell, the trumpeter recorded a number of classic albums. He was a professor of Music at the California Institute of the Arts for over ten years and has studied a variety of music cultures (African, Japanese, Indonesian, European and American), developing a music theory, and a notation system to fully express the music which he calls "Ankhrasmation".

For more information,  you may visit http://wadadaleosmith.com/