His latest adventure, "America's National Parks" (Cuneiform Records), is a poetic look at the United States through the land it preserves, one of its greatest rivers, a multi-national and racial port city, and an African-American musicologist who worked to preserve the "folk" music of the country. The 98-minute double album features Smith's Golden Quintet of Anthony Davis (piano), John Lindberg (bass), and its newest members, drummer Pheeroan akLaff and cellist Ashley Walters.
The release of "America's National Parks" coincides with the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Parks Systems and Wadada Leo Smith's 75th birthday (in December). The last five years have been among the most productive and rewarding time of the trumpeter and composer's life. Like a National Park, Wadada Leo Smith is one-of-a-kind, an amazing son of the Mississippi Delta who has created his own musical system, has celebrated his elders while creating his own lasting compositions, and who has traveled the world, collecting and synthesizing the many sounds he has heard and continues to hear. In his own words, this new collection of compositions and performances illustrates that "My focus is on the spiritual and psychological dimensions of the idea of setting aside reserves for common property of the American citizens: those who have passed on before, those who are here in the present, and those who will come in the future." This music celebrates people, cities, nature, rivers, canyons, and, through performances, the art it inspires.
For more information, go to www.wadadaleosmith.com and to www.cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/smith.html.
Here's a taste of the opening track:
Finlayson, who first came to notice at the age of 17 playing in saxophonist and conceptualist Steve Coleman's ensembles at the turn of the new Millennium, is also a busy musician, working with guitarist Mary Halvorson, Steve Lehman, Muhal Richard Abrams and others. His original music incorporates many different styles and you will go crazy looking for his influences as he has well on his way to his own "sound."
|photo by Scott Benedict|
The urgency of the early cuts is evident in "Cap vs. Nim" but there is a more "open" feel in the rhythm section and a more melodic approach in Mitchell's impressive piano accompaniment. Only in the latter stages of the trumpet solo does one notice the tension has risen. "Between Moves" opens with a guitar and bass duo, Okazaki strumming and picking while Hébert solos. Mitchell enters in support, with his bass notes setting the pace for the rest of the song. The bowed bass and piano continue with long tones as Finlayson enters and builds upon the piano chords. His solo moves easily over the band, often referring to and musically commenting on what is being played beneath him.
|Everett McCourt image|
"Moving Still" is an apt title to this album, especially as the music continues to reverberate after the final note is played. With a majority of the titles referring to chess, it puts the listener on notice to listen to how the band "moves" through the music and how the music moves through and out of the quintet. Jonathan Finlayson is more of a crafty than slick soloist while his compositions blend melody and rhythm (that's the Steve Coleman influence), interactions and solos, in the most fascinating. This group must be great fun to watch and listen to in a club or concert setting. In the meantime, this recording is a real treasure.
For more information, go to jonathanfinlayson.com or pirecordings.com/album/pi67.
Here's a chess-inspired track: