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Wadada Leo Smith: America’s National Parks

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.

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