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

Wadada Leo Smith & Tumo: Occupy the World

As he did in last year’s Pulitzer-nominated Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform), trumpeter-composer Wadada Leo Smith again melds social concerns with deeply personal statements. TUMO, the ensemble Smith leads and conducts here, is a 21-piece Finnish improvisational orchestra consisting of players who prove equally fearless tackling Smith’s challenging scores and launching improvisations both solo and collective, juxtaposing the title composition-a meditation on the Occupy movement-with tributes to friends and colleagues. There’s even a musical portrait of Queen Hatshepsut, Pharaoh of Egypt during the 18th Dynasty. The disc was recorded in February 2012, in the days following the pieces’ debut performance at TUMFest 12 in Helsinki.

Characteristically, Smith places a strong emphasis on group statements (i.e., community), yet even during ensemble passages each voice is limned so precisely that the dichotomy between the “individual” and the “collective” virtually disappears. Despite the epic sweep of his themes, Smith also avoids grandiosity: “Queen Hatshepsut,” for all its regal stateliness, flows with sensual grace; the solos of alto saxophonist Mikko Innanen and tenor saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist are alternately tender and querulously barking; flutist Juhani Aaltonen’s exotic, bird-like flutters are redeemed from preciousness by the earthy growls and chirps that emanate from the orchestra behind him.

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