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Wadada Leo Smith & John Lindberg: Celestial Weather

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Wadada Leo Smith and John Lindberg have performed as a duo over the years, since connecting in the ’70s in Anthony Braxton’s Creative Orchestra, but it wasn’t until June of 2012 that they got around to recording an album as such. The result, though less extravagant than Smith’s Pulitzer-nominated, four-CD Ten Freedom Summers and subsequent two-CD The Great Lakes Suites (on which Lindberg played bass as a member of Smith’s Golden and Great Lakes quartets), is a worthy addition to those recent landmarks that documents the two men’s exceptional rapport.

The album’s namesake centerpiece is “a suite [composed] of five spontaneously improvised pieces named for different weather phenomena”: Smith’s trumpet cuts through “Icy Fog” like a high-pitched foghorn; his muted horn and Lindberg’s plucked bass weave an unexpectedly pensive “Typhoon”; that movement gives way to the vigorous bowing and flurries of high trumpet notes that open “Tornado”; and so on. Lindberg’s two-part “Feathers and Earth,” meant to evoke his affinity for predatory birds along with “the grand organism that supports the life of all the interconnected beings that dwell upon it,” provokes similarly deft interplay as it soars toward the disc’s conclusion.

Smith’s two-part contribution, “Malachi Favors Maghostut-A Monarch of Creative Music,” opens the album and is arguably its highlight. Favors, who died in 2004, was Lindberg’s predecessor in Smith’s original Golden Quartet, and was best known as a founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Smith’s homage to his AACM colleague includes an impressionistic poem, “Maghostut,” printed in the album’s extensive notes. But the music he and Lindberg make is the greater tribute, by turns somber and celebratory as it sums up the man’s life and work.

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Originally Published