Friday, May 27, 2011

Wadada Leo Smith’s Organic - Heart’s Reflections (Cuneiform, 2011)

Trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith has been on a wonderful creative roll of late, playing everything from post-Miles fusion to fragile acoustic projects. On this two compact disc set, he draws from all of that experience and imbues it with his deep spirituality and unique approach to music to develop a very successful project. The band is large, and shifts constantly, allowing for a large palette of musical possibilities to draw from. Opening the album is the extraordinary “Don Cherry Electric Sound Garden” which swaggers in with the electric authority of Smith’s Yo Miles! project. Grinding with a heavy beat and wah trumpet strutting over a pulsing bass and drums, the performance is a dramatic demonstration of the strength and authority of the musicians involved. After an interlude of open space, the twenty minute tracks gains its second wind, resolving itself in an epic slab of funky jazz. “The Dhikr of Radiant Hearts Parts One and Two” bring the music back down to Earth beginning with a stark drum and trumpet duet, and then allowing electronic instruments to probe the soundscape through ominous and cinematic use of space and time. A massive drum beat leads us into “The Majestic Way” building a strong and deep with full band improvisation for Smith to solo over. Swirling guitar in the background trades places with the keyboards, building a definite post-electric Miles vibe. The pace is kept by the massive bass and drumbeat which develops to propel “The Shaykh, As Far As Humaythira” into the cosmos with fast strong swinging before a more frenzied collectively improvised section. Wild guitar bubbles up from this Witches Brew as the featured solo. “Certainty” recalls Davis’ Jack Johnson era with Smith throwing trumpet jabs like a boxer over big slabs of guitar and beat, before casting them all aside with his own personal lightning fast trumpet runs. The two part “Ritual Purity and Love” begin in a slow and spare fashion with guitar and electric piano probing a sci-fi scene, before developing into a deep funk vibe. A three-section suite, “Heart’s Reflections - Splendors of Light and Purification” opens the second disc with a feature for drummer Pheeroan akLaff building into a potent and funk laced blast of fiery trumpet over thumping bass. The suite ends with a starkly beautiful clarion call of trumpet sparely accompanied by acoustic piano. A dedication to Toni Morrison, “The Black Hole - Conscious and Epic Memory” develops a slow and haunting feel with trumpet occasionally splitting the abstract vibe. The album ends with another dedication, this time to Leroy Jenkins called “Air Steps” that ends the epic album on a light and fluid note. This is really an extraordinary piece of work that Smith has released, rivaling anything he has done over the course of his lengthy career. Drawing upon his own vast experience and that of the masters he has followed, he has developed unique insight into the nature of improvised music that is on full display on this triumphant album. Heart's Reflections -

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