Wadada Leo Smith

Ten Freedom Summers

By Glen HallFor trumpeter/composer Wadada Leo Smith, the four-CD Ten Freedom Summers is one of his "life's defining works." Within the opening moments of "Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 381 Days," his justification for making such a statement becomes palpably clear; its deeply felt statement fully engages Smith's Golden Quintet. Its terse, striking theme leads to a visceral trumpet solo elevated by dual drummers Susie Ibarra and Pheeroan akLaff, followed by the impassioned, rippling piano of Anthony Davis. Over 34 years of composition are distilled into 19 pieces, some by the quintet, some played by Southwest Chamber Music, a nine-piece "classical" ensemble. Hovering between suspension and hesitant movement, "Black Church" emerges from the keening strings of the ensemble in an intense ballet of entwined limbs, reaching for something not quite attainable. The compositions focus on personally poignant scenes of the Civil Rights movement and Smith's bold, declamatory trumpet sound robustly conveys the epic aspect of his subject matter. From the exploitive roots of slavery to the emancipatory advocacy of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Smith's music resonates with the suffering and the dreams of a better life that embodied the decade of 1954 to 1964 that is the subject of this powerful compendium of compositions.
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