America" with Jack DeJohnette, his equally excellent "Wisdom In Time" with Günter Sommers, or his more meditative "Compassion" with Adam Rudolph.
Here we find him again in excellent company, with Ed Blackwell no less, the fabulous free jazz drummer who laid the foundations for his instrument's new role with the Ornette Coleman bands and Old & New Dreams. Like with Don Cherry on the historic "Mu", he is possibly the best partner for this kind of endeavor and also for Smith's concept of music : it is freedom while being based in African rhythms, blues and jazz. Blackwell is incredibly creative and expressive, adding little touches, shifting meters, reorganising the beats constantly, actively shaping the overall sound and melody. Just listen closely to the album's title track if you want to be convinced.
The title track also figured on the album with Jack DeJohnette as "Ed Blackwell, The Blue Mountain Sun Drummer". It's interesting to compare both performances: not only the difference in approach by both drummers - equally stunning, with DeJohnette having a lighter touch, more cymbal work, steadier in the rhythm, and Blackwell using his polyrhythmics on his toms without losing the beat, more African, but Smith's tone has also changed, become deeper, richer over the years, but interestingly his improvisational skills and his capacity of positioning the composition - of putting it right there in front of your ears as if there was no other choice for it to sound that way, despite the endless possibilities, are still there.
He plays some of the tunes from his "Kulture Jazz" album which was released on ECM in 1995: the bluesy song "Don't You Remember", "Uprising" and "Albert Ayler In A Spiritual Light". This also demonstrates how Smith nurtured his own ideas and compositions over the years and decades even.
Smith's trumpet playing is incredibly good as can be expected: he can be intimate and sensitive and bluesy, but he can be expansive, jubilant and soaring.
The performance was recorded live on October 23, 1986 at Brandeis University, Massachusetts. That's 24 years ago. The sound quality is excellent. How fantastic that we get to hear this. I hope there are still more gems in a drawer somewhere.
As usual, I can only recommend it. Highly.
Listen to this and you will feel so refreshed.
Just listen to this!
The cover art is by Lynn Horton, jazz journalist from All About Jazz. She also wrote a great article on the trumpeter, which you can read here.
Listen and download from iTunes.