American composer, improvisor, theoretician and trumpet player,
in Washington DC at the
in addition to performing at numerous other 2010-2011 concerts WORLD-WIDE!
Wadada Leo Smith is one of the most visionary, boldly original and artistically important figures in contemporary American jazz and free music, and one of the greatest trumpet players of our time. As a composer, improvisor, performer, music theorist/writer and educator, Smith has devoted a lifetime to navigating the emotional heart, spiritual soul, social significance and physical structure of jazz both free and composed and world music to create new music of infinite possibility and nuance.
"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." -- Boston Globe
“The Golden Quartet is… lively, even explosive at time, yet still exquisitely balanced. …No other composer accommodates the independence of the individual and the unity of the ensemble in quite the way Smith does. …the collective sound always coheres into something purposeful and beautiful. Remarkably, the personalities and forces are kept in balance.” -- Point of Departure
"Smith's compositions are expansive, linear, soaring, rhythmic, funky. The Ensemble is body and emotions, and spirit… listen to it, and your heart leaps, your body shakes and your mind...is out in the stratospheres..." -- Free Jazz
PRESS & RADIO
Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet, composition)
Since Creative Music1., his first album under his own name, came out in 1972, Smith has released nearly 30 albums either under his own name or his bands’ on ECM, Moers, Black Saint and other labels. In addition to his own works, he has worked and recorded with numerous other artists, including Muhal Richard Abrams, Carla Bley, Anthony Braxton (“I have never known a time when Leo Smith was not developing something…The man is a genius.”), Marion Brown, Jeb Bishop, Leroy Jenkins, Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, and Anthony Davis, (who called Smith “one of the unsung heroes of American music.”) In recent years, having settling in the Los Angeles area in the 1990s, Smith has unleashed a torrent of critically acclaimed releases that are as striking for their diversity as for the purity of artistic vision uniting them all. In 2004, Tzadik released a 4-CD boxed set of Smith’s early work, called The Kabell Years, 1971-79. Giving it “4.5/5 stars.”, the All Music Guide stated that “This is a monumentally important addition to the recorded library of avant-garde music and should be considered a necessary part of any enthusiasts’ shelf.” Most recently, Smith has released duo recordings with free jazz drummer Gunter Baby Sommer on Intakt and jazz/world music percussionist Adam Rudolph on Meta/Kabell, and released an acoustic/electronic project with Walter Quintus & others on the Leo label.
Smith has published pamphlets on his music theories and won numerous grants and awards as a composer (Meet the Composer, NEA, etc). His compositions have been performed by numerous contemporary music ensembles, including the Kronos Quartet and AACM. Smith taught at several colleges (U. of New Haven, Bard College, Woodstock’s Creative Music Studio) in the Northeast prior to moving to California in 1993, as the first person to assume the Dizzy Gillespie Chair at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts-Valencia). Currently, Smith is Director of African American Improvisational Music Program at CalArts - Valencia. Smith founded the Creative Music Festival at CalArts around 1995, and served as its curator over the years. In 2005, he received the Jazz Journalist Association’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Education.
Vijay Iyer (piano, synthesizer)
Iyer has also composed orchestral and chamber works; scored for film, theater, radio and television; collaborated with poets and choreographers; and joined forces with artists in hip-hop, rock, experimental, electronic, and Indian classical music. He has performed and recorded with Steve Coleman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Mike Ladd, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Amiri Baraka, Amina Claudine Myers, Butch Morris, Oliver Lake, dead prez, Karsh Kale, Talvin Singh, Imani Uzuri, Craig Taborn, and DJ Spooky, among others. He teaches at Manhattan School of Music, New York University, The New School, and School for Improvisational Music. His writings appear in Music Perception, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Current Musicology, JazzTimes, Wire, The Guardian, and the anthologies Uptown Conversation, Sound Unbound, Arcana IV, and The Best Writing on Mathematics: 2010.
John Lindberg (bass)
Pheeroan akLaff (drums)
2010: Chamber Music America awards Wadada Leo Smith and his Golden Quartet a 2010 New Jazz Works Grant:
Wadada Leo Smith is composing a large work for his Golden Quartet, called Ten Freedom Summers, which is inspired by the activity of the civil rights movement from 1954-1964. Ten Freedom Summers will be a suite in three movements, “Brown v. Board of Education”- 1954, “Little Rock Nine”- 1957 , and “Freedom Summer”-1964 . Ten Freedom Summers is commissioned by Chamber Music America with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Wadada Leo Smith was simultaneously featured on the cover of two major music magazines: the January 2010 digital edition (free online) of Jazziz, one of America's top-3 jazz publications, and the February 2010 issue of The Wire, the UK's premiere magazine of new/avant music.
2009: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Awards Wadada Leo Smith a 2009 Fellowship:
"Through musical reflections I realized that music had a philosophical, theoretical, and practical usage in the construction of art objects; and that the creative musical languages consist of compositional forms (known musical elements) and improvisational forms (unknown musical elements). The composition and improvisation are constructed through musical activities and the inspired musical moments that the artist/composer/performer wishes to reveal. For fifty years my research and artistic development has been to create a notational language and to design compatible systems to illustrate my artistic expression. In the performance context, the ensemble is the most important unit for discovery and is the key for success, and therefore determines the quality of the composition and improvisation experience."
WADADA LEO SMITH
Spiritual Dimensions, Smith’s latest release on Cuneiform, is a double album that features two groups that have been among the key focal points for Smith’s prolific creativity and compositional and performance activities in recent years. Both groups Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quintet and Wadada Leo Smith's Organic are composed of superb musicians whom Smith carefully selected to interpret and perform his unique compositions, and both were recorded live to capture the energy and spirit of their live performances. Together, this double CD set documents the activities Wadada Leo Smith, one of America’s greatest living jazz musicians, as an ensemble leader, composer, improvisor, and trumpet player during the mature apex of his creative years. Featuring some of Smith’s most accessible, jazz oriented music, Spiritual Dimensions opens the door to Smith’s creative universe in specific and the boundless dimensions of American creative music, inviting listeners to further explore.
The first disc in Spiritual Dimensions is by Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quintet and was recorded at Vision Festival XIII in New York City in June 2008. The all-star lineup features Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, Vijay Iyer on piano and synthesizer, John Lindberg on bass and dual drummers Pheeroan AkLaff and Don Moye. This is the fourth CD release by one of Smith’s favorite, ongoing groups: his “Golden” ensemble, which began as a quartet but here expands, for the first time on CD, into a quintet with two drummers. When Cuneiform released Tabligh, the previous CD by Smith’s Golden Quartet which featured the same lineup of Smith, Iyer and Lindberg but a different, single drummer, Shannon Jackson All About Jazz called it “one of the best realizations of [Smith‘s] work on record”. Point of Departure noted that “The Golden Quartet is the closest thing to a standard jazz group that Wadada Leo Smith ever used to present his own music.” Here, Smith further develops his Golden grouping of master musicians, experimenting with the concept of a small jazz group as a finely-honed instrument to perform his musical visions. While very much the work of an astonishingly empathetic group, Smith, the leader, points down the path that the Quintet follows; his distinctive trumpet work ranging here from peppery outbursts to subtle smears and whispered interjections. The Golden Quintet on Spiritual Dimensions performs five of Smith's breathtaking avant jazz compositions, imbued with space, depth, melody and abstraction. The music is mostly acoustic, but with some distinctive electric touches, especially towards the end.
In marked contrast with his primarily acoustic Golden Quintet, the second disc in Spiritual Dimensions is by Wadada Leo Smith's Organic, a predominately electric, nine-piece group especially notable for its inclusion of four guitarists. This is the first-ever release by Organic (whose name should not be confused with Organic Resonance, an album Smith recorded with Anthony Braxton), and was recorded live April 17, 2009 at the jazz club Firehouse 12 in New Haven, CT. Performing are Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, Nels Cline, Michael Gregory, Brandon Ross and Lamar Smith on electric guitars, Okkyung Lee on cello, Skuli Sverrisson on electric bass, John Lindberg on acoustic bass and Pheeroan AkLaff on drums. The band stomp and burn through 4 lengthy tracks (all between 12 and 19 minutes long), all composed by Smith. Although the music is more unmistakably groove-driven than on the first disc, many of the same touchstones appear; Smith's strong style and control remain but is manifest themselves differently. 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 is a good example of how Smith’s compositions mutate to embrace new settings, and how Smith experiments with ensembles as new voices or instruments for his language. As Smith said in an interview with JazzTimes:
Released at the same time as the Nessa’s label’s reissue of Smith’s Procession of the Great Ancestry, Wadada Leo Smith’s Organic is a vibrant and vital disc whose music sips from the blues-drenched origins of Smith’s distant past, from the realms of noise and electronics, and from eastern vistas and beyond. Fusing a galaxy of influences into an organic and accessible form, Wadada Leo Smith’s Organic offers an ideal entry point into his vast oeuvre, and should appeal to fans of groove-oriented jazz as well as rock and electronics audiences.
What the Press have said about Spiritual Dimensions:
“A thrilling double album by the adventurous trumpeter, Wadada Leo Smith, Spiritual Dimensions spotlights two remarkable bands that both deliver with an intensity and skill that’ll give any open-minded jazz fan goosebumps"
"It’s pure lightning, with seamless interweaving of themes, color, and harmony, as different sub-groupings join Smith and Lee as they wander the tune’s swaggering thickets"
"Smith has somehow managed to wed an elaborately idiosyncratic aesthetic theory, social philosophy, and system of musical notation to a body of music with the directness, loveliness, and immediate appeal of more traditional forms of music"
"Smith creates a unique world of sound where rhythms are more than mere earthly creations, but rather something which aspires to a beauty of metaphysical proportions.”
"Smith's musical vision is constant, but the way his band members react to it so differently makes the music a living, evolving organism."
WADADA LEO SMITH
Lauded as “one of the most vital musicians on the planet” by Coda, Wadada Leo Smith is one of the most visionary, boldly original and artistically important figures in contemporary American jazz and free music, and one of the greatest trumpet players of all time. As a composer, improvisor, performer, music theorist/writer and educator, Smith has devoted a lifetime to navigating the emotional heart, spiritual soul, social significance and physical structure of jazz both free and composed and world music to create new music of infinite possibility and nuance. Early in his career, he invented a strikingly original music notational system called Ahkreanvention or Ankrasmation, which was radical for its time and remains revolutionary today. Described as a “musical language” or “notation system for scoring sound, rhythm and silence, or for scoring improvisation”, it remains the physical and philosophical foundation of his oeuvre. Since the 1960s, when Smith became a founding member of AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music) and debuted as a composer with “The Bell” on Anthony Braxton’s 1968 Three Compositions of New Jazz, he has released nearly 30 albums under either his own name or his bands’ on ECM, Moers, Black Saint and other labels, including numerous releases on his own Kabell label in the ‘70s-‘80s and on Tzadik, Pi Recordings and Cuneiform in the ‘90s and 2000s. In recent years, a galaxy of new releases and reissues in a wide variety of projects have brought Smith wider attention and world-wide critical acclaim. When Tzadik released a boxed set of his early work in 2004, The Kabell Years 1971-79, All About Jazz noted that “Having all this material in one spot establishes Wadada Leo Smith as a major musical force and verifies his important and lasting influence on succeeding generations.” Finally beginning to get the recognition due to, in All About Jazz’s words, “a living master”, Smith appeared on the cover of two of North America’s premier avant-garde jazz and improv magazines: Signal to Noise in Spring 2003 and Coda in the Fall of 2004. In 2005, Smith’s music was spot-lit as the subject of a three-day Creative Music Festival held at RedCat in Los Angeles. The crowning highlight of that festival, headlining on November 19, was a concert by Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet, a musical project especially dear to his heart.
This CD, Tabligh, the first release by Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet on Cuneiform, was taped live at the November 19th 2005 concert. The third CD by the Quartet, it is the first one to feature the group’s new acoustic-electric lineup: Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, Vijay Iyer on piano, Fender Rhodes and synthesizer, John Lindberg on bass, and Shannon Jackson on drums. Smith had brought these gifted composers/improvisers/performers together in 2004, and in the spring 2005 they did an extensive European tour. Their world premiere at the Banlieues Blues Festival was filmed by French filmmaker Jacques Goldstein for a documentary that originally aired on TV France, and has just been released as a double-DVD called Eclipse, part of by La Huit Productions’ Freedom Now! series. While the DVD captured the overseas debut of this version of the Quartet, this CD features it performing on its home turf at a festival that Smith had founded a decade before, after it had spent time working and touring together. On Tabligh, the musicians converse like old friends, speaking Smith’s musical language with ease, their conversation rich with sonic nuance and emotional, spiritual and political resonance. They perform four of Smith’s compositions, including “DeJohnette”, a piece written for the drummer who had inspired Smith to form his Golden Quartet and had been in its first lineup. “DeJohnette” had appeared on Golden Quartet, the group’s 2000 debut CD on Tzadik; its inclusion here is a tribute, a link between present and past, and an example of how Smith’s compositions can mutate to embrace new settings. “Rosa Parks” was written for the African American activist who had died in October, a month before the RedCat concert; her refusal to ride in the back of a bus in 1955 an act of civil disobedience sparked the Civil Rights movement and the rise of Martin Luther King, and forecast the end of segregation in the US South. The final two songs, “Caravan of Winter” and “Tabligh”, were written as part of a collection of 11 compositions “exploring and elaborating on the Islamic practice of Zikr, or remembrance of Allah”, for a cross-cultural collaborative project commissioned by the Islamic World Initiative and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. As performed by Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet, the music on the Tabligh CD is both riveting and reverent, offering breathtaking vistas across and interpretations of a jazz landscape that encompasses sound as well as silence, abstraction as well as grooves. In both its form and its content, the music on Tabligh is one of the purest expressions of Smith’s creative ideals.
Since its Los Angeles appearance in 2005, Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet has performed worldwide at a number of prestigious music festivals. In Dec. 2005, it performed as part of a concert series devoted to the AACM, called “Ancient to the Future,” presented at Philadelphia’s International House. In 2006, the group played at the NorthSea Jazz Festival and the Barnevelder Movement Arts Complex in Houston with a different lineup (Smith, Lindberg, guitarist Woody Lee Aplnalp, and drummers Nasheet Waits and Famoudo Don Moye). This year, Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet with Iyerpiano, Lindbergbass, and Art Ensemble of Chicago member Famoudo Don Moyedrums (the lineup of Tabligh except for the drummer) will play on the main stage June 13, 2008 at the Vision Festival XIII in NYC THE premier festival for improvised music in the USA.
Smith’s Golden Quartet has performed twice as part of Smith’s cross-cultural collaborative performance project for double ensembles, called “Tabligh: The Garden of the Heart and the Soul”. The first performance, in collaboration with Iranian musician Alan Kushan and his group, Rumi’s Disciple, took place in NYC’s Merkin Concert Hall in December 1, 2005. For the second performance, the Golden Quartet collaborated with a Turkish trio led by Süleyman Erguner at the Istanbul AkBank Jazz Festival in Turkey in October 2006.
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.
What the Press has said about Tabligh:
“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."
"It’s a fantastic album, a reminder of the power of Smith’s personality and of good small-group jazz.”
"...lyrical and atmospheric, featuring both wide-open spaces and a heaping dose of pleasing melody."
"Tabligh is an album that should be on the shelf of anyone with an interest in the past eighty-odd years of trumpet improvisation.”
"The music is remarkably crafted and cements the credentials of the quartet as a divining force.”
Among the giants enthroned in jazz’s pantheon, no one made as big, as broad, as bad-boy brazen of an impact on popular music in many manifestations jazz, rock and improvisation - as Miles Davis. At the same time, he pioneered new routes for rock. The innovations Davis made in both jazz and rock spawned immediate followers in his time, and continue to infuse and energize the music of today. But even during the revival that began in the 1990s, "… only one band has had the courage to throw itself full bore into the thorniest Davis era, the mid-'70s years when he created a dark, dangerous, haunting, ecstatically wondrous body of music that no one has ever attempted to duplicate."(San Francisco Chronicle). That band is Yo Miles!
INDEX TO THIS EMAIL:
WADADA LEO SMITH'S ALBUMS ON CUNEIFORM:
Disc Two: featuring
Listen to an excerpt of "Rosa Parks"
Yo Miles! Lineup:
[More Info on Yo Miles!]