02/20/13 By Jon Muchin
WADADA LEO SMITH SEEKS FUNDING TO COMPLETE & PREMIERE NEW WORK TO MARK 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON
Smith’s Ten Freedom Summers Voted #3 New Release of 2012 in Rhapsody Jazz Critics Poll
The new work-composed for quintet, along with string quartet and harp-will be performed by the Golden Quartet, the Pacific Coral Reef Ensemble, the Flux String Quartet and video artist Jesse Gilbert. Through the USA Projects funding, Smith plans to premiere this new work at Roulette in Brooklyn, NY in May 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this historic event. The funding will help Smith to improve the theatrics of the performance, which would include additional high-definition screens for video projections, and to show the Civil Rights Movement in a new light.
A kaleidoscopic, spiritually charged collection of compositions inspired by the struggle for African-American freedom, Ten Freedom Summers was released on CD on the Cuneiform label in May 2012. Voted the #3 new release of 2012 in the Rhapsody Jazz Critics Poll, Ten Freedom Summers has appeared on over 60 end-of-year lists. NPR included it in its Top 50 albums of 2012 and it placed eighth in the 2012 JazzTimes Critics Poll, while music criticism aggregator MetaCritic hailed it as the #1 under-the-radar album of 2012. Wadada was also named International Musician of the Year for 2012 by Musica Jazz Magazine.
Ten Freedom Summers has been heralded as “his masterpiece," (Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine), “the veteran trumpeter’s defining statement,” (Mike Hobart, Financial Times), “the most challenging (and emotionally rewarding) release of 2012," (Bret Saunders, Denver Post), “stirringly beautiful … an astounding aesthetic achievement.” (Michael Casper, Oxford American), “an emotional and intellectual luxury, a chance to commune with greatness,” (Josh Langhoff, Pop Matters), and “the work of a lifetime by one of jazz’s true visionaries. … Triumphant and mournful, visceral and philosophical, searching, scathing and relentlessly humane, Smith’s music embraces the turbulent era’s milestones while celebrating the civil rights movement’s heroes and martyrs.” (Bruce Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery).
Composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, whose roots are in the Delta blues, is one of the most boldly original figures in American jazz and creative contemporary music, and one of the great trumpet players of our time. Born and raised in Leland, Mississippi, Smith start playing trumpet in R&B bands, encouraged by his stepfather, blues guitarist Alex Wallace. By the mid 1960s, he had gravitated to Chicago’s burgeoning avant-garde jazz community where he was part of the first generation of musicians to come out of Chicago’s AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music). Smith formed the Creative Construction Company together with saxophonist Anthony Braxton and violinist Leroy Jenkins and collaborated with a dazzling cast of fellow visionaries including Muhal Richard Abrams, Richard Davis and Steve McCall. Early in his career, Smith invented an original music notational system called Anhkrasmation, which was radical for its time and remains the physical and philosophical foundation of his oeuvre.
Since the early 1970s, Smith has performed and recorded mainly with his own groups. He currently leads four principal ensembles: Mbira, a trio with pipa player Min Xiao-Fen and drummer Pheeroan akLaff; the Golden Quartet, his highly celebrated group that now includes Anthony Davis, John Lindberg and Pheeroan akLaff; Organic, a larger ensemble that utilizes instrumentation consisting primarily of electric string instruments; and the Silver Orchestra, which explores Smith’s music for large ensemble. He has released nearly 50 albums under either his own or his bands’ names on ECM, Moers, Black Saint, Tzadik, Pi Recordings, TUM, Leo, Intakt and Cuneiform, among others. In addition to the 4-CD Ten Freedom Summers, he also recently released Ancestors, a duo CD with Louis Moholo-Moholo on the TUM label.
Smith has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Chamber Music America with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the FONT (Festival of New Trumpet Music) Award of Recognition, Southwest Chamber Music funded by the James Irvine Foundation and the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, the MAP Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. An esteemed educator and music theorist, Smith has been on faculty since 1993 at Cal Arts, where he is director of the African American Improvisational Music Program and has profoundly influenced several generations of artists.
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