Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Wadada Leo Smith, Jack DeJohnette and Vijay Iyer - A Love Sonnet For Billie Holiday (TUM Records, 2021)

All three of the principals bring compositions to this excellent album, a collaborative effort between Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, Vijay Iyer on piano, keyboards and electronics and Jack DeJohnette on drums and percussion. Smith planned the session so that the lack of a bass player would offer the musicians a wider range to express themselves. The opening track "Billie Holiday: A Love Sonnet" is a potent meditation on the life and music of the famous icon, with Smith's thoroughly unique trumpet tone and inflections leading the group through this memorable performance. The three musicians have played together in sever different configurations, and this connection allows them to combine on such a unique composition. "Deep Time No. 1" has a spooky sound with echoing repurposed recorded speech "By Any Means Necessary" by Malcolm X along side hushed cymbals and long tones of trumpet. Iyer gets really trippy effects from his bank of gear at one point, then moving to electric piano, as the band creates a complex strata or stew of instruments and techniques and incorporates a fine rolling drum feature for DeJohnette. Intricate trio playing led by a strong trumpet tone comes to the forefront on "The A.D. Opera: A Long Vision With Imagination, Creativity and Fire, a dance opera "For Anthony Davis." Deep wells of piano lay the foundation for this epic piece and, after a pause, the music grows faster, freer, pushing boundaries, the sounds the musicians create are noticeably louder and more visceral. The music shifts dramatically to spare electronics and percussion, Smith’s trumpet has a beautiful emotional tone. Super fast acoustic piano, very impressive, as the piece continues to shape-shift, demonstration the relentless creativity and vision of these musicians. "Song for World Forgiveness" establishes a mid-tempo mysterious underlying principle, where composer DeJohnette's drums course ominously with pinched toned trumpet and piano chords creating a fluctuating environment. Iyer drives emotional piano chords, amid lashing drums, stark up to this point sounding stoic throughout the performance, with Smith intoning intense long tones like breathing, the musicians come together to bring a final sense of peace to the performance. Bright piano chords and drums sounding like waves upon a shore add to this newfound sense of hard won optimism. Electronics and organ open the concluding track "Rocket" soon met buy stuttering, powerful bursts of polished trumpet that pushes the music forward as the keyboard grinds and drums percolate. Iyer's keyboards frames piercing eruptions of brass, as the music fades into the mist. This album worked quite well, the compositions from each band member were consistently interesting and offered plenty of space for exciting exploration. The CD is a typically excellent TUM production with extensive liner essays, biographies of the musicians and interesting artwork. A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday -

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