Recorded October 2008 at Orange Music.
Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith is one of the most fascinating players in American avant-garde jazz. Perhaps only Miles Davis was more interested in exploring the spaces between notes - and Smith has spent many years exploring Davis' electric music in Yo Miles!, the group he co-leads with guitarist Henry Kaiser. He's recorded in just about every conceivable setting, from the solo trumpet excursions heard on Kabell Years: 1971-1979 to big bands, and his latest disc is, in a couple of different ways, another facet of his fascination with Miles Davis. He's partnered up with drummer Jack DeJohnette, who played in Davis' band from 1969-1972 but who also backed the initial lineup of Smith's Golden Quartet. And one of the compositions here, "Red Trumpet," seems to be named in tribute to Davis' famous horn, while the opening cut, "America, Pts. 1, 2, 3," quotes from Davis' solo on "Concierto de Aranjuez" from Sketches of Spain. That's only part of the picture, of course. Smith and DeJohnette are highly individual voices, unique and immediately recognizable on their respective instruments and endlessly creative and inventive, and throughout this album they explore melody, rhythm, and pure sound in a symbiotic duet that's some of the best music either man has made. The austere stillness at the heart of Smith's music is anchored and emphasized by DeJohnette's powerful mastery of the drum kit, adding up to a record that deserves to be placed alongside Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell's Mu
All Music Guide
Originally proposed to ECM Records in 1979, the collaboration of trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and drummer Jack DeJohnette has finally found new life in America. Recorded last year in Bill Laswell's New Jersey studio (but without his heavy-handed production aesthetic), this unadorned acoustic session documents two of the world's most versatile and virtuosic improvisers working through a set of six new compositions written by Smith.
Legendary veterans whose seminal innovations can be traced to the late '60s, Smith was a charter member of the AACM, while DeJohnette served with Miles Davis during his influential fusion period. Their finely tuned rapport was rekindled in the company of pianist Anthony Davis and late bassist Malachi Favors in the first version of Smith's Golden Quartet. Favors passing in 2004 disbanded the original line-up, leaving their first two albums, Golden Quartet (Tzadik, 2000) and Year of the Elephant (Pi, 2002) as definitive examples of creative improvised music for the new century.
Opening with celebratory fanfare, the episodic "America Parts 1, 2, 3" gradually segues from brassy, martial turbulence into spacious impressionism that quotes the Dark Prince's "Concierto De Aranjuez" before returning to a climactic vortex of clarion trumpet calls and frenetic trap set ruminations. "John Brown's Fort" and "Masnavi: The Falcon and the Owls" spotlight Smith's smeary chromatic flurries and DeJohnette's ricocheting rhythms while "Red Trumpet" and the lyrical "Ed Blackwell, the Blue Mountain Sun Drummer" demonstrate their adroit use of spatial dynamics, as Smith's recoiling lines weave around DeJohnette's elastic downbeats with nimble dexterity. "Rabi'a's Unconditional Love, a Spiritual Mystery of the Heart" offers introspective respite, in which Smith's delicate muted refrains are accompanied by DeJohnette's tastefully spare accents.
Despite their limited palette, Smith and DeJohnette reveal a wealth of expressionistic possibilities. Bringing years of experience into play, each approaches the jazz tradition from opposite ends of the musical spectrum, yet they make a perfectly balanced pair. Smith's protean timbre and abstruse cadences are delivered with studied virtuosity, while DeJohnette executes intricate polyrhythmic fragments and elaborate fills with freewheeling verve. Exuding a primordial timelessness reminiscent of an extended ritual invocation, their empathetic dialog surpasses contemporary trends and stylistic precedents. Their interplay is measured and precise, neither overwrought nor timid, lending America an air of regal austerity-the sound of two masters engaged in an intimate musical conversation.