Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Wadada Leo Smith / Douglas Ewart / Mike Reed - Sun Beans of Shimmering Light (Astral Spirits Records, 2021)

An archival recording from 2015 that is getting a well overdue release is this meeting between Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, Douglas Ewart on saxophones and flute and Mike Reed on drums and percussion. The music is gallant and pure throughout, opening with "Constellations and Conjunctional Spaces," which is a lengthy piece that moves from austere quiet to quite exciting improvisational fervor during the course of its near sixteen minute length. Smith dominates the early portion, patiently creating from scratch in an almost painterly fashion, an oblique yet compelling section that is representative of his mastery of the instrument and the idiom. There is an excellent burst of sopranino saxophone from Ewart that sends the track into a completely different direction, where the pace is quickened to that of nearly a whirling dervish, the juxtaposition between the two sections is most impressive. Ewart proves his status as an all-around player on "Sun Beans of Shimmering Light" by moving to flute, which provides another layer of color and texture to the music, much like Sam Rivers did when he switched instruments on the fly. It fits in well, soloing and shading the music being presented by Smith and Reed. "Super Moon Rising" shows the drummer and trumpeter developing an excellent duet section, moving dynamically and allowing a sense of freedom to permeate all that they do. Ewart joins them about halfway through the performance, to build a complete collective improvisation and sharing of ideas that sees them through until the end. Finally, on "Unknown Forces," Smith builds a patient and beautiful unaccompanied solo to begin this track, soon joined by the droning and keening playing of Ewart, and Reed's spacious, thoughtful percussion that gives the music the appearance of a personal and private ritual or procession. The musicians play very well together on this album, creating music that is deep yet accessible, as their insatiable curiosity leads them through four performances that are striking and full of energy. Sun Beans of Shimmering Light - Bandcamp

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