“What? You Know About Leo?”

Shortly after I posted the Doug’s Picks selection of Wadada Leo Smith’s new CD, Tabligh (see the center column), I was in a meeting with Daron Hagen. I casually mentioned Smith. “What?” he said, full of excitement. “You know about Leo?” It turns out that Hagen, a distinguished composer of operas, chamber music and orchestral works, was a teaching colleague of Smith at Bard College and holds him in high regard. That led to a discussion of one of Hagen’s — and my — favorite propositions, that music is music and there are only two varieties–good music and what Duke Ellington called the other kind. Hagen places Smith squarely in the first category.

Coincidentally, You Tube has just put up a video of Smith and his Golden Quartet. It is apparently from a television program, but in typical You Tube fashion the only information we get is the names of the players: Smith, pianist Vijay Iyer (misidentified as Lyer), bassist John Lindberg and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson. Before they play, Smith speaks briefly about the nature of the blues. The piece ends inconclusively, but given the nature of the music it is difficult to know whether that is by design or because the video reached You Tube’s time limit.

There is a second piece, evidently from the same program. If you watch it, I recommend setting aside preconceived notions. The music is fascinating – and wild. This also cuts off unceremoniously, an annoying feature of far too many web videos. Click here.

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