Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wadada Leo Smith's Mbira, "Dark Lady of the Sonnets"

Wadada Leo Smith celebrated his 70th birthday last December with a commemor- ative multi-group concert at NYC's Roulette. I am sorry I had to miss it but it undoubtedly was yet another sign of how Wadada continues to be a vital force in today's music.

One thing I have not missed is his latest recording with the configuration Mbira, namely Dark Lady of the Sonnets (TUM CD 023). It's a smaller gathering, a trio with Wadada on trumpet and fluegelhorn, Pheeroan akLaff, drums, and Min Xiao-Fen on the Chinese lute pipa and vocals.

What is especially nice about this one is the chance to hear extended horn soloing from Mr. Smith. Mr. AkLaff holds forth extensively with his creative brilliance as a time, embellishment and freetime compositional-improv drummer of great inventiveness. Ms. Xioa-Fen plays some wonderful pipa improvisations/accompaniments too, her vocals have interest, and in many ways she brings an entirely new set of musical stimulants for the horn-drum sections to react and catapult against.

This is music of depth. Wadada sounds fabulous, whether pensive or brashly exciting. His tenure doing the Miles tribute thing (Yo Miles) gave him a handle on late Miles and how one could extend it. He's incorporated what he absorbed of his experience doing that so that now it is more and more an integrated element in the total matrix of the Wadada horn style. The compositional side of his music shows further development on this CD as well. It's all good.

A beautiful album....

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