The Scores of Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith

Source: The Hum Blog.

Over the course of the last week – as the fate of America, and specters of race, have occupied so many of our minds, my thoughts kept falling back toward Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith’s masterpiece Ten Freedom Summers. In my view, the work is among the most important compositions to emerge in the last 100 years. It should, and does, by that count, stand on its own as a triumph of organized sound – but it is also a work whose context should not (and arguably can not) be discounted. Wadada Leo Smith is unquestionably one of the most significant and singular composers working today – not to mention his towering accomplishments as a musician and improvisor. Ten Freedom Summers, which was begun in 1977 (loosely at the instigation of Leroy Jenkins) and completed in 2011, is his crown jewel (to date) – structured around themes and figures associated with the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, and the effect of that movement on the psychology of America as an entity.