TEN FREEDOM SUMMERS
"Ten Freedom Summers is one of my life's defining works." – Wadada Leo Smith
"I’ve been blown over by the epic scope. This is an African-American Ring Cycle." – Jeff von der Schmidt, conductor
"Play any one of these 19 songs and you’re confronted or seduced by gorgeous sound combinations. Ensembles break apart and re-form into audacious musical shapes that you’ll remember like landmarks, even when the music’s off. Smith’s trumpet savors meditative dissonance along with strings and harp; his Golden Quartet or Quintet, sometimes featuring two drummers, races through passages of wild improvisation. The whole thing is impressive, yes, but also spellbinding, like the book you read for school that alters how you think about everything." – PopMatters Picks: The Best Music of 2012 : The 75 Best Albums of 2012
"Wadada is one of the most imaginative and explorative composers in creative music. His vision is uncompromising, his methods holistic and mystical. His playing is consistently brilliant and his sound is personal, with a clarity of tone recognizable after one note. His compositions have a special focus combining improvisation with written passages of extreme sensitivity and beauty... He is a National Treasure." – John Zorn
Trumpeter/composer Wadada Leo Smith’s Ten Freedom Summers is the work of a lifetime by one of jazz’s true visionaries, a kaleidoscopic, spiritually charged opus inspired by the struggle for African-American freedom and equality before the law. Triumphant and mournful, visceral and philosophical, searching, scathing and relentlessly humane, Smith’s music embraces the turbulent era’s milestones while celebrating the civil rights movement’s heroes and martyrs. This four-disc set documents a stunning, career-capping accomplishment by a jazz giant in the midst of an astonishing creative surge.
An orchestral collaboration with the acclaimed eight-piece ensemble Southwest Chamber Music (harp, clarinet, 2 violins, cello, flute, viola, bass, percussion) conducted by Grammy Award-winner Jeff von der Schmidt, Ten Freedom Summers is built upon Smith’s celebrated Golden Quartet featuring pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, drummer Susie Ibarra and/or drummer Pheeroan akLaaf (who often expands the ensemble to a quintet). As a child of the Deep South who was raised in the red-hot crucible of the civil rights movement, Smith traces the project’s origins back to 1977, when he wrote “Medgar Evers,” an expansive evocation of the NAACP activist gunned down in Mississippi 14 years earlier.
Working in fits and starts, Smith completed the 19-piece project 34 years later in October of 2011 with a portentous, elegiac piece for Southwest Chamber Music. In designing the huge, multi-movement work, he focused on the transformative decade framed by the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"I was born in 1941 and grew up in segregated Mississippi and experienced the conditions which made it imperative for an activist movement for equality,” says Smith says, who marked his 70th birthday with a presentation of this, perhaps his most ambitious undertaking. “I saw that stuff happening. Those are the moments that triggered this. It was in that same environment that I had my first dreams of becoming a composer and performer.”
After decades of being revered by his peers and colleagues, Smith is attaining his rightful place at the forefront of American music. Ten Freedom Summers is an important work that combines unique, fully scored rigorous passages and great improvisational skills into one huge and cohesive work. It is a thrilling, emotionally charged and satisfying work from a master.Ten Freedom Summers press release
“Organic’s music is a swirling roar, part fusion and part jazz rock orchestra, like a combination of Burnt Sugar and Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats Ensemble.” – The Wire, February 2010 cover story
"Organic’s music is powerfully electric and electronic in nature; fiery and interactive in character; contemporary, spiritual and politically conscious, its creative energy is heartfelt and connected with the human feeling." – Wadada Leo Smith
Although he made his reputation over decades and decades of work in the free jazz and improvised music realm and as a early member of Chicago's hugely influencial AACM (the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music), trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has long been interested in larger ensembles and electric music as well. Heart’s Reflections is a bold double-disc set that features Wadada Leo Smith's Organic, a predominately electric, fourteen-piece group, a band most notable for a lineup marked by four guitarists. In addition to Smith, who plays both acoustic and electric trumpet, the extraordinary lineup on Heart’s Reflection includes: Brandon Ross, Michael Gregory, Lamar Smith, and Josh Gerowitz on guitar; Skuli Sverrisson and John Lindberg on bass; Angelica Sanchez on acoustic and electric piano; Stephanie Smith on violin; Casey Anderson on alto saxophone; Casey Butler on tenor saxophone; Mark Trayle and Charlie Burgin on laptops; and Pheeroan AkLaff on drums.
For a record by such a large group, at times the sound is surprisingly sparse and delicate - both qualities that have long marked Smith's work, while at other times, it sizzles and stomps! Though longtime listeners who haven't followed Wadada's work in the last decade might be surprised at times by the fierceness of Organic’s rhythm section, Heart’s Reflections is nonetheless marked by the trumpeter’s usual touchstones: long sustained notes, occasional clipped phrases, and a tough-to-define playfulness that infuses all of his work.
Coming across like the next evolutionary step after Miles Davis’ electric era, Heart’s Reflections is a vibrant set that harkens back to the blues influence of Smith’s Mississippi childhood, and looks forward to still-developing realms of noise and electronics. The album fuses a galaxy of influences into a natural and accessible form, offering an ideal entry point into Smith’s vast oeuvre. Heart’s Reflections should appeal to fans of groove-oriented jazz, as well as rock and electronics audiences with a taste for adventure.Heart's Reflections press release
Spiritual Dimensions is a double album that features two very special groups, both filled with truly great and legendary musicians! Both discs were recorded live to capture the energy and spirit that Smith's shows have.
The first disc is by his Golden Quintet. This disc is a modern/avant jazz release that has some distinctive electric touches and features many of the hallmarks of Wadada's work; space, depth, melody and abstraction:
Wadada Leo Smith – trumpet
The second disc is the first-ever release of Wadada's Organic group and is a completely different creature. It's a fully electric, four guitar, creative, bad-ass beast with slinky grooves, but the same hallmarks run through this set as well:
Wadada Leo Smith – trumpet
The easiest comparison between the albums can be drawn by listening to the two different versions of the composition South Central L.A. Kulture, which appears at the last track by the Golden Quintet and as the first track by Organic; its inclusion here in two versions is a good example of how Smith’s compositions can mutate to embrace new settings.
"...a welcome reminder of Smith's continued importance in the continuum of creative improvised music." – All About Jazz
"...not only as inventive and adventurous as he was when he was a younger player, but his creativity and ability to direct a band into new territory is actually farther reaching than ever before. This is brilliant work." – All Music Guide
Spiritual Dimensions press release
This is the third album by Wadada’s all-star Golden Quartet, which features:
Wadada Leo Smith – trumpet
Recorded live, the sound on Tabligh veers from a sound akin to early electric jazz ala "In A Silent Way" and especially 'the lost quintet' of Miles in late 1969/early 1970, to both more sparse and modern jazz fare, all of it informed by the distinctive personalities of these four players and their leader's musical concepts.
"Smith is working at his highest level since the mid '70s. This quartet - with its combination of maturity, craftsmanship, and sense of adventure - is the perfect band to realize Smith's deepening vision." – Ed Hazell, Boston Globe
Ten Freedom Summers press release
Heart's Reflections press release
Heart's Reflections press quotes
Spiritual Dimensions press release
Spiritual Dimensions press quotes
Tabligh press release
Tabligh press quotes
Press quotes from previous Smith albums