Artist Profile

Wadada Leo Smith at 80 

Source: San Francisco Classical Voice.

Although Smith’s work ethic looks pretty consistent over a long career that began in earnest in U.S. Army bands and first bloomed within the context of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the staunchly forward-looking trumpeter, composer, theoretician, and educator’s current renaissance could be said to have begun with the 2011 performances and 2012 release of Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform). A massive collection of 19 compositions written over a period of 34 years and inspired by the civil rights movement, this 4 ½-hour series of reflections on several historical topics might be the longest sustained work ever composed by a jazz performer. For almost anyone in his 70s, it would be the culmination of a life’s work, but for Smith, it was just the opening of the valve to a flood of new compositions crossing back and forth through the porous membrane between the classical and jazz avant-garde.