Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Wadada Leo Smith: America’s National Parks

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Trumpeter-composer Wadada Leo Smith’s latest long-form suite, America’s National Parks, unites political engagement with a soul-deep connection to nature. Marshaling his newly expanded Golden Quintet (pianist Anthony Davis, cellist Ashley Walters, bassist John Lindberg and drummer Pheeroan akLaff), Smith’s 98-minute work, rich with ineffable majesty, fully engages with tensions at the heart of the American experience.

Half of this suite’s six movements are inspired by officially government-endowed parks. “Yellowstone: The First National Park and the Spirit of America” finds Smith’s stark, ancient phrases giving way to Davis and Lindberg’s undulating rhythm, deftly interlaced with anxious reactions from akLaff. Evoking Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks, Smith unleashes full-toned trilling runs over rolling freeform drum figures and rough-edged interpolations from Walters. On “Yosemite,” Davis’ heavy block chords join Smith’s plangent horn to conjure the desolation that confronted settlers pushing their way west.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published