LAST CALL CD OF THE MONTH: Wadada Leo Smith/Najwa/Tum Records

Nov 1, 2017

Wadada Leo Smith celebrated his 75th birthday in 2016.  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.

His latest recording is Najwa, another in a series of recordings that are truly epic in scope and  profound in the use of space and texture and intensity. The first selection, a tribute to Ornette Coleman, starts the session with a whirlwind of sound generated by a band of players, several who have worked with Wadada Leo Smith on previous exceptional projects, swirling around Smith's trumpet which is like the eye of a hurricane. The storm of sound is accentuated by the presence of four guitarists--Michael Gregory Jackson, Henry Kaiser, Bandon Ross and Lamar Smith. The similarity to Ornette Coleman's Prime Time recordings and to a lesser extent the Afro-rock of the Miles Davis band of 1974-5 is right out in front.

The second selection, a tribute to John Coltrane, is arguably a good speculation on what directions Coltrane might have been pursuing musically in the mid-1970s had he lived when electronic jazz was openly embraced by many jazz musicians.

The title track, Najwa, is a brief oasis of calm in an otherwise relentless recording, that continues in that direction with a dark, percussion heavy tribute to one of the finest free jazz drummers who worked with Wadada Leo Smith some years ago, the late Ronald Shannon Jackson. And the epic recording closes out with a heartfelt remembrance of Lady Day, Billie Holiday.

The tracks are:
1-Ornette Coleman's Harmolodic Sonic Hierographic Forms: A Resonance Change In The Millennium (16:22)
2- Ohnedaruth John Coltrane: The Master Of Kosmic Music And His Spirituality In A Love Supreme (14:00)
4-Ronald Shannon Jackson: The Master Of Symphonic Drumming And Multisonic Rhythms( Inscriptions Of Rare Beauty(11:40)
5-The Empress, Lady Day: In A Rainbow Garden, With Yellow-Gold Hot Springs, Surrounded By Exotic Plants And Flowers(10:01)

The band is: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet; Michael Gregory Jackson: guitars; Henry Kaiser: guitars; Brandon Ross: guitars; Lamar Smith: guitars; Bill Laswell: electric bass; Pheeroan akLaff: drums; Adam Rudolph: percussion.

The record is another artistic triumph for the veteran trumpeter and bandleader, who has released a number of spectacular recordings recently, including America's National Parks, 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 1960s. 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".

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