Ages before reductionist improvisation morphed into a contest to see who could say the least within the longest possible span of time and in the most unmusical way possible, trumpeter/flugelhornist Wadada Leo Smith developed a style built on economy and variable timbre-a style that, while novel, nevertheless embraced essential qualities that distinguish music from random futzing.
Compassion is not reductionist. Smith’s approach is too direct and organically conceived to be defined so narrowly. But this music does demonstrate how one can explore open space and extremes in tonal color without contrivance.
Smith is joined by Adam Rudolph, a savvy colorist in his own right, whose hand drums, gongs, cymbals and various percussives interact with, complement and set grooves for the trumpeter. The duo shares a nice rapport. Smith is all ears, always. Rudolph seems just as preternaturally attuned. The pair utilizes space, certainly, and plays as a team without a hint of phony-baloney self-abnegation.
On Compassion, acute contrasts of volume and texture are not affectations but logical imperatives. Smith and Rudolph remind us of what should be obvious: that the exploration of timbre is most interesting when done in the context of melody and rhythm.