Label: Cuneform Rune
Musicians: Wadada Leo Smith - trumpet, electric trumpet; Michael Gregory - electric guitars; Pheeroan akLaff - drums; Brandon Ross - electric guitar; John Lindberg - acoustic bass, electric acoustic bass; Skuli Sverrisson - electric bass. 6-string bass; Angelica Sanchez - acoustic piano, Wurlitzer electric piano; Josh Gerowitz - electric guitar; Lamar Smith - electric guitar; Stephanie Smith - violin; Casey Anderson - alto saxophone; Casey Butler - tenor saxophone; Mark Trayle - laptop; Charlie Burgin - laptop.
|Trumpeter/composer/improviser: Wadada Leo Smith|
Photo courtesy: expressnightout.com
His new CD release (two discs): "Heart's Reflections" further cements his living legacy.
It is instructive to review the accomplishments of the players on this date, in order to appreciate fully the wide ranging artistic power and musical innovation of the ensemble. The band has 14 musicians, including Smith. Immediately, this presents challenges of control (egos and otherwise), and cohesion for any leader. Smith acquits himself marvelously and simply by demonstrating great confidence in the muscular rhythm section of Pheeroan akLadd (drums), John Lindberg (acoustic bass, electric acoustic bass), Skuli Sverrison (electric bass, 6-string bass) and Angelica Sanchez (acoustic piano, Wurlitzer electric piano), affording it more than adequate space to anchor the band with a concentrated beat that furrows an opening, funky groove on several of the tracks, extending a galactic, textured weave for the electric guitars of Michael Gregory, Brandon Ross, Josh Gerowitz, and Lamar Smith to paint, pound, strut, sizzle, and burn with the abandon of an invading electronic army (Don Cherry's Electric Sonic Garden; The Majestic Way; The Shaykh; Certainty; Ritual Purity and Love, Part II; The Well: From Bitter to Fresh Sweet Water; Leroy Jenkins's Air Steps).
Drummer Pheeroan akLaff comes to the band by way of scintillating work with avant garde personage, pianist Cecil Taylor, is regarded as a sensitive colorist, who uses dynamics skillfully, possesses an intuitive sense of orchestration, and brings the funk!
Bassist John Lindberg is a co-founder of the String Trio of New York. He has worked with improvising luminaries Albert Mangelsdorff, Ed Thigpen, Susie Ibarra, Karl Berger, John Carter, Kevin Norton and Roswell Rudd. Skuli Sverrisson, like Lindberg, has also worked with venerates of the free jazz world, Derek Bailey, Lou Reed, Jon Hassel, David Svlvian, Arto Lindsey and is known for his work with composers Ryuichi Sakamoto, Johann Johannson, and Hildur Gudnadottir. Sverrisson has been awarded 5 Icelamic Music Awards, including Album of the Year for Seria in 2006.
Pianist/composer Angelica Sanchez studied Composition and Jazz at Arizona State University, was a 2008 recipient of the French/American Chamber Music American Grant and the 2011 Rockefeller Brothers Pocantico artist residency. She has worked with Paul Motian, Ralph Alessi, Susie Ibarra, Tim Berne, Mario Pavone, Reggie Nicholson and numerous others.
Electric guitarist/composer/singer/songwriter Brandon Ross has worked/recorded with Cassandra Wilson, Henry Threadgill, Tony Williams, Bill Frisell, Archie Shepp, Myra Melford, and countless others. He co-leads the avant power trio, Harriet Tubman, with bassist Melvin Gibbs and drummer JT Lewis. "Brandon Ross...combines the linear facility and originality of joyous Late-era Pat Martino with the sheer decibels of Sharrock and the liquid whammy-bar articulations of Alan Holdsworth. (Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times June '07)
Electric guitarist Michael Gregory, a New Haven, Connecticut native, was mentored during his artistic nascence by Wadada Leo Smith. Later Gregory became involved with improvising luminaries, Jay Hoggard, Dwight Andrews, Jeff Fuller, Pheeroan akLaff. He has toured Europe and played with Oliver Lake, trumpeter Baikaida Carroll, and recorded with Bija, Black Saint, and improvising Artists and Artisa.
Electric guitarist/composer/improviser/educator Josh Gerowitz is from Los Angeles, California. He has performed with Mark Tribe, Vinny Golia, The Brotet, The Cabeza De Vaca Arcestra, The New Century Players, Michael Pisaro and others. He leads his ensembles The Gerowitz Quintet and Slabubnik.
Violinist/composer/performer/sound artist Stephanie Cheng Smith is a multi-media artist, she is a graduate of the University of Chicago and is working on an MFA in Experimental Sound Practices and Integrated Media at California Institute of Arts. She is a recipient of several grants, including: California Institute of the Arts Interdisciplinary Grant (2010); California Institute of the Herb Alpert School of Music Grant (2010); California Institute of the Arts Ahmanson Grant (2010); and the Cultural Affairs and Illinois Arts Council Grant (2008).
Alto saxophonist/composer/improviser/ Casey Anderson lives and teaches in Los Angeles, California. He has performed with Jason Kahn, Ulrich Krieger, MKM, Fomoudou Don Moye, Michael Pisaro, and The Dog Star Orchestra. His residencies, performances and exhibitions include the Walker Art Center (MN), MOCA - Los Angeles (CA), ISSUE Project Room (NY), STEIM (NL), Atlantic Center for the Arts (FL), and Mass MOCA (MA).
Multi-instrumentalist Casey Butler (alto saxophone, guitar, bass, keyboards, flute, gamelan), originally from San Diego, California, with degrees in music from UC Berkeley and CalArts. He has studied with Eddie Gale, John Tchicai. He is a student of the spiritual potency of John Coltrane's music. He performs in Los Angeles with the Improvising Composers United (ICU) 9,000,000 B. C., The Amazing Feelings, and his own Reflective Myth Unit.
Mark Trayle is a San Jose, California native. He has studied composition at the University of Oregon with Homer Keller and at Mills College in Oakland, California with Robert Ashley, David Behrman and David Rosenbloom. He is a musician and sound artist that works with a variety of media including live electronic music, improvisation, installations and compositions for chamber music. He has composed a number of pieces for acoustic instruments with electronics. His music has been the subject of articles in Strumenti Musicali and Virtual (Italy), Keyboard, and "Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century" (Grove/Atlantic). He has recorded for Artifact, Atavistic Records, CRI, Creative Sources, Inial, Los Angeles River, Electra/Nonesuch and Tzadik.
Charlie Burgin is a multi-instrumentalist/composer/hip-hop producer. His music is composed with the help of custom designed software, hardware, and modified instruments producing electronic drumming, scratching, and multiple music interfaces. He is currently studying Music Technology in the MTIID programs at the California Institute of the Arts with Martjin Zwartijes and Ajay Kapur. He has completed two complete albums, hip-hop influenced "Freak Beat" and IDM influenced "Unknown." He is working on his third.
Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith leader/trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist/composer/improviser has been active in creative contemporary music for over forty years. His systematic music language Ankhrasmation is significant in his development as an artist and educator. (Biography)
Wadada Leo Smith's Oraganic Heart's Reflections is awe-inspiring, candidly raw music, with a formidable, determined electric attitude, that must make Charles Augustin de Coulomb antic in his grave. It is a sustained lightning strike of world energy, descending on a groove, toting a beat, connected to human feeling. Apart from the infectious beat, Smith's music gains automatic attention because of the sheer complexity and mixture of instrumental sounds out of which his trumpet flows like Armstrong's, the first time trombonist Jack Teagarden heard him; playing from the mist-shrouded deck of a Mississippi River boat, "...like a God." (Don Cherry's Electric Sonic Garden).
Generally, the band is an eclectic mix of musical tastes with a mercurial emotional character; it can be busy, enigmatic, yet full of cool surprises. It can growl fiercely like a pride of hungry lions during a feeding frenzy, plead with a human voice, or it can go 'way, way out' (Toni Morrison: The Black Hole) with Smith in the lead pushing with clear, streaking high register wails; and as it demonstrates on (Larry Jenkins's Air Steps); becoming an epicenter of insanity that Sanchez's piano attempts to keep under control with a repeating melodic mantra that draws in Smith's even, sane trumpet, expanding the movement to a passionate funk anthem that materializes a fantastic Michael Gregory electric guitar solo, staking out territory with the devastating beauty and authority of a Hendrix; then, through sheer technical aplomb and dominant assertiveness, he guides the stunned ensemble to deserved respite; receiving a unified instrumental, brassy salute from the band to end the piece. This is the band at its best!
Braided into the band's organic mastication of sound and stirring electronics, intriguing shades of darkness inhabit it's collective personality; curiously propitious and engaging like an infinite, suspended, barren moonscape; impaling sensation with the eerie sound of silence rising out of the sparse, tenuous pianism of Angela Sanchez, and blended with John Lindberg's searching, measured bass (The Dhikr of Radiant Hearts, Part 2). The ensemble's cimmerian interweave is ultimately infused with intricate, organic, modernity and adventurous creativity from Mark Trayle (laptop), Stephanie Smith (violin) and Charlie Burgin (laptop) arranging itself into the Jekyll and Hyde-like (Ritual Purity and Love).
Though Smith incorporates ultra freedom, muscular innovation, and daring spontaneity in his compositional approach, there is an underlying indomitable spirit and 'spirituality', that pervades his music. It is this spirit that adapted the intellectual genius of Ellington, Miles and Monk to absorb 'the rules;' gave them the courage to 'break them all,' and equipped each with the conviction to give voice to the 'inner self.' This is the spirit that springs from the fecund imagination of Wadada Leo Smith, lives in his music, and shines in the depth less wonder and bracing simplicity of his compositions (The Dhikr of Radiant Hearts, Part 1 & 2; Spiritual Wayfarers). There is also heard flowing, bluesy lyricism from Smith's trumpet (The Majestic Way), and pungent funk steaming out of the 'mash of sounds' (Smith) from the pots of rhythms peppered by drummer Pheeroan akLaff, bassists Skuli Sverrisson and John Lindberg (Ritual Purity and Love, Part 2).
In terms of innovation, vision, and forward thinking, Wadada Leo Smith's Organic: Heart's Reflections 2011 appears to show striking artistic parallels with Miles Davis' 1948 landmark (now classic) album "Birth of the Cool." Both are nonpareil trumpeters fronting large ensembles, consisting of young, versatile, cutting-edge musicians, hungry to explore new territory; and each with strong leadership qualities. Davis' Nonette was never reassembled to record more albums, for reasons that had nothing to do with the music, and more to do with logistics. Hopefully, Smith will remain beyond classification and continue to reprise the free music of this exceptionally exciting band.
Track listing: Disc 1: Don Cherry's Electric Sonic Garden; The Dhikr of Radiant Hearts, Part 1; The Dhikr of Radiant Hearts, Part 2; The Majestic Way; The Shaykh, as Far as Humaythira; Spiritual Wayfarers; Certainty; Ritual Purity and Love, Part 1; Ritual Purity and Love, Part 2;
Disc 2: Silsila; The Well: From Bitter to Fresh Sweet Water, Part 1; The Well: From Bitter to Fresh Sweet Water, Part 2; Toni Morrison: The Black Hole; Leroy Jenkins's Air Step.
Recorded and mixed at Firehouse 12 Recording Studio, New Haven CT.
Engineer: Nick Lloyd
Tracking Assistant: Doug DiCrosta
Overdub Engineer: Clay Chaplin, Herb Alpert's School of Music
California Institute of the Arts, Valencia CA
Mixed by Nick Lloyd, Michael Gregory and Wadada Leo Smith
Mastered by Gene Paul at G & J Audio, Union City NJ
Mastering Assistant: Jamie Polaski