Wadada Leo Smith’s Four Recent Releases Reviewed

Wadada Leo Smith

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

The greatest testament to trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith’s ability to improvise and adapt to creative situations is to look at the list of artists he’s collaborated with since he arrived in the Chicago jazz scene in the mid ‘60s. Along the way, he has worked with the likes of drummer Jack DeJohnette, accordionist and composer Pauline Oliveros, British electronic duo Spring Heel Jack, and, to great acclaim, pianist Vijay Iyer.

Smith is able to move between such varied worlds because he’s a sharp listener, and a player who’s able to utilize silence as much as the quick, clear, stabbing notes and frayed tones he pulls from his instrument. That openness and calm comes across most strongly in his own compositions—beautiful, sweeping post-modern jazz works that tend to use symbolic scores derived from a self-created systemic musical language he dubbed ‘Ankhrasmation.’ On the page, it looks like beautiful abstract art.

His willingness to collaborate and create, especially over the last decade or so, has resulted in a wealth of studio works and live recordings that feature his improvising. We caught up with Smith from his home in Connecticut, after his regular acupuncture appointment, to get his thoughts on four of his recent albums.