CD: Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform)

The trumpeter and composer’s four-disc work is a monument to Black Americans’ struggles for freedom. The names of the 19 movements summon up key episodes in the story, among them “Dred Scott,” “Thurgood Marshall and Brown vs. Board of Education” and “The Freedom Riders Ride.” With his free jazz quintet’s unfettered improvisation Smith blends skilled writing, including passages for a nine-piece ensemble of strings and winds. The tempers of the work range from tumult in “Dred Scott” to gauzy reflection in “Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, 1964.” Titles and themes aside, the music, as music, is potent and satisfying.

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  1. Ann Braithwaite says

    Wadada is one of our jazz treasures and he’s more prolific and accomplished than ever.

  2. says

    Had the great pleasure of hearing Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet with John Lindberg, bass; Pheeroan AkLaff, drums, and a pianist I wasn’t familiar with, perform four movements of this work live at Ann Arbor’s Edge Fest at Kerrytown Concert House over the weekend. Smith is a task master on stage, especially when dealing the JFK movement from this work, which is usually played by a chamber ensemble plus the quartet. Pulling it off as a quartet, extending it to an hour, was a feat. Heard live, too, Smith’s sound is a personal extension of Miles Davis. He plays with great volume, but also a lovely vibrato, even while tearing it up. A musical occasion to treasure.