WADADA LEO SMITH - Performance Reviews by peisty474


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Wadada Leo Smith - Performance Reviews

Wadada Leo Smith's
Golden Quartet

New York Times
Saturday December 3, 2005

by Nate Chinen

Wadada Leo Smith
and Alan Kushan
Merkin Concert Hall

More than most jazz musicians, the trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has pondered the confluence of world music and jazz
improvisation. He has a theory about it, in fact, and a system of hieroglyphic notation to match.

"Tabligh," a suite Mr. Smith has composed with Alan Kushan, a figure in avant-garde world music, harnesses a few of
those ideas for a modern take on Persian classical music and Sufi devotional practice. The piece, which had its premiere
on Thursday night at Merkin Concert Hall, had the feel, of something loosely dictated rather than meticulously

Experimentalism is the bridge between Mr. Smith, a founding member of the Association for the Advancement of
Creative, Musicians, and Mr. Kushan, a cosmopolitan instrument 'maker and composer. Each led his own ensemble at
Merkin, making for a rather literal illustration of jazz meeting world music.

Mr. Kushan's group, Rumi's Disciple, sat on a platform on one side of the stage; Mr. Smith's Golden Quartet took up the
other. A similar sense of separation pervaded the suite, which included a handful of cross-fades from one ensemble to

Rumi's Disciple set a meditative mood in the first movement, "The Olive Pyramid." Amir Koushkani sang with a warmly
appealing tone and fingerpicked percussively on his tar, a banjolike lute. Proper percussion duties went to Sam
Schlamminger, on the daf, or frame drum, and Shane Shanahan, on shakers, bells and cajon, or box drum. Mr. Kushnan
used tiny mallets to strike his self-customized santur, a dulcimer augmented with strings normally used in pianos, harps
and harpsichords; he teased out a kaleidoscopic range of sounds from buzzing drones to a rubber-band twang.

Mr. Smith, who has quite an arsenal of expressive devices himself, preferred a pristine sonority through much of the
suite. Making his entrance in the second movement, he affected a wounded tone that evoked Miles Davison "Sketches of
Spain." It was only during a later interlude that Mr. Smith veered into piercing squeals and sputtering guffaws, and even
then, he kept his technique under strict control.

The rhythm section evinced comparable discipline. Vijay Iyer rumbled around the piano's lower register and stabbed at
its higher reaches, but with hair-trigger attunement to the climate of the ensemble. John Lindberg subjected his bass to
a litany of slaps and slurs. And Nasheet Waits, the drummer, busied himself with texture, often gently undercutting the
rigid patterns of Mr. Schlamminger, his hand-drumming peer.

There were moments that fully engaged the double ensemble, achieving complex roar. But it was always clear which half
of the stage was more comfortable with improvisation. The suite's final movement showcased the Golden Quartet alone,
and outshone all that preceded it. Mr. Smith and his colleagues dived into the open space with a furious sort of clarity, as
if finally impelled to speak freely. Their stirrings culminated in a monumental exertion, by Mr. Waits; he concluded the
solo, and the evening, with a downbeat crash that needed no translation.

Wadada Leo Smith's
Golden Quartet
Signal to Noise
Winter 2007

Caught in the act: significant live concerts from around the world
by Francesco Martineli

Wadada Leo Smith
& Süleyman Erguner
Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall, Istanbul Turkey

The 16th edition of the Istanbul AkBank Jazz Festival presented a rich and varied program, confirming its leading
position among the most explorative events of its kind in Turkey and Europe. Among the most interesting features there
were appearances by Alvin Curran and Dave Burrell, and a strong spotlight on Turkish musicians including Ayse
Tütüncü's trio and Islak Kopek, an improvising collective from Istanbul. But the crown jewel was Tabligh, a joint project
by Wadada Leo Smith and Süleyman Erguner well described as: "In the garden of the heart and soul, music for double

Leo Smith's music should already be well known to the readers of the magazine: his Kabell recordings recently reissued
by Tazdik are essential listening and illustrate how original and integral is his concept of music, sharply etched and
standing by its inner strength alongside those of his friends and colleagues in the AACM: Abrams, Mitchell, Braxton,
Lewis. Süleyman Erguner is known only to a limited circle of specialized listeners, but he comes from a lineage of Sufi
masters and and he's the foremost ney player of his generation; hopefully his recent retirement from the Radio orchestra
will allow him a more reasonable presence abroad. If you have the chance, do not miss his unique recording on the
low-range ney, or his more recent Tende Canim (on Sera).

First performed in New York with Iranian musicians, this musical dialogue between American and Muslim music has
strong political relevance, but any wishy-washy, generic preconceived idea about universal harmony through indistinct
music was quickly dispelled by a strong artistic statement based on what Smith himself described like a collision of
musical traditions, leaving the listeners to find sense and meaning In the sounds themselves without an imposed vision.

Smith's quartet, with long-time collaborator John Lindberg, impressive guitarist Woody Aplanalp and none other than Art
Ensemble's Don Moye on drums, run the gamut of soundscapes from explosive, colourful late Miles to short, staccato
statements by the single musicians, a device typically used by Smith all along his career in order to attain a different
space and time perspective on the music. The startling electronics by Aplanalp, Lindberg's melodic imagination and the
percussive figures by a Moye in splendid shape gave blood and meat to Smith's concept, the trumpeter itself contributing
with lines that were deeply original while paying tribute to past masters, from Miles Davis to Don Ayler and Lester Bowie.

Erguner's trio with young kanunist Ahmet Baran and Mert Nar on darbuka and def played several traditional pieces:
Erguner's ney voice imposes itself immediately for the rich, thick sound coupled to an agile phrasing in the upper
registers, but his young collaborators were very good in smoothly mixing their sounds in the improvised pieces, once
again proving how Turkish traditional music can be used in a jazz context.

Smith himself conducted the complex suite based on alternating pieces by his own quartet and Süleyman's trio, with
exchanges based on different procedures: the two leaders improvising within each other's piece, a percussive dialogue
between Moye on traps and Mert Nar on darbuka, and episodes - including the encore - with the two full ensembles
joining in. Besides the obvious differences in forms, the shared interest in the deepest meanings of sounds and their
combination was the shared trait in this kaleidoscopic concert.

The audience in the huge and comfortable Cemal Resit Rey concert hall received the performance with loud applause and
cheerings, now let's hope that other presenters will take it from here.



Montreal's Suoni Per Il Popolo festival is different from many others in that it was not initially conceived as a jazz festival.
Programmed to take up almost the entire month of June, at one large venue (Sala) and one small one (Casa), the
invited artists have always been more a function of the promoters' wide-ranging taste for liberation than anything
doctrinaire. There's also a manifest commitment to presenting new (sometimes unlikely) pairings, with results ranging
from the spectacular to the disastrous. But those are the rewards and punishments of running an aesthetically free
festival. Friction is a natural byproduct.

No reason to dwell on the dysfunctional couplings, except for the Peter Brotzmann & Sam Shalabi duet, which was one of
the festival's most hotly anticipated nights. Multi-instrumentalist Shalabi was playing electric guitar, Brotzmann had his
usual complement of woodwinds. The night before, Brotzmann had played a great, openly communicative set with
drummer Nasheet Waits. Waits seemed too deep into an Art Blakey African Beat mode and the whole thing clicked.
Consequently, tongues were damp with anticipation for the next night. But from the start, Shalabi and Brotzmann
cohered far less than hoped. Shalabi's amp blew up and, following a break, things went further awry. The replacement
amp was quite a bit louder than the first, and it was pointed directly at Brotzmann. So when Shalabi started channeling
Rudolph Grey, Brotzmann was sonically swamped. Tension built for a while, then communication seemed to completely
break down, and Brotzmann left the stage abruptly. Hard to figure out exactly what transpired, but it was a real
disappointment, since the parts of their collaboration that did cohere were incredible.

Equally heavy, though much more rewarding, was the solo trumpet set by Wadada Leo Smith. The sound was extremely
minimal and quiet. Throughout, Smith looked as cool as a beatific university professor and as concentrated as a star
cluster. He has such a commanding mastery of delicate forms that the organic waves of sound he created turned
everyone's heads inside out. During his two sets, the big room took on the feel of a religious retreat, and rivers of karmic
goodness flowed like the purest honey.
Second Thoughts
by Alan Rich -
LA Weekly, November 1-7, 1996

You could not mistake last week's California EAR Unit program, opening the Monday Evening Concerts series at the
County Museum, for anything out of the convoluted worlds of Ives or Mahler, yet the element of eclecticism was an
important motivating force here as well. The essence of pop -jazz, improv, even a ballad or two - provided much of the
coloration in five large-scale works meant to be heard in a concert context (i.e., respectful silence, with applause only at
the end). Some of it worked.

It worked especially well when, for the final work, the great improv trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith blazed his way through
his Tao-Njia with the ensemble in hot pursuit: sinuous, smoky waves of sound freely bending, darting off in
immaculately controlled explosions ending (as doesn't always happen in new music) far too soon against the audience's

A Lot of Night Music
by Alan Rich -
LA Weekly, March 28 - April 3,1997

Monday, March 17. The CalArts contingent took over tonight's Green Umbrella concert at the Japan America Theater as
part of the school's annual springtime new-music festival. I can remember earlier festivals - from around 1978, say - as
genuinely horizon- expanding events, gatherings of worldwide innovators with new and challenging definitions of what
music is all about. John Cage showed up, and Morty Feldman and Iannis Xenakis; for a couple of weeks each year we all
felt suspended over a precipice. Has that spirit truly died? Tonight we had composers pushing notes around, justifying
themselves by proclaiming alliances with grand bygone philosophies; the crackle of dry bones resounded through the
hall. And then, in the last piece, Leo Wadada Smith's Nur; Luminous: Light Upon Light, a roomful of reawakened hearers
followed Bert Turetzky's solo double bass down a long, resonant corridor, and at the end the solo oboe of Allan Vogel
rose like a shaft of clear light and traced a jazz tune, pure and beautiful. We had waited through two hours in the gloomy
reaches of other people's solemn, self-congratulatory note spinning in hopes for this kind of light at the end. There,
finally, it was.

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