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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wadada Leo Smith - The Great Lakes Suite (TUM, 2014) ****

By Stef

Without a doubt Wadada Leo Smith is one of my favorite composers and musicians. Without a doubt the musicians in this quartet are among the best you can find, with Henry Threadgill on alto and flutes, John Lindberg on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Without a doubt the quality of the recording and the quality of the release itself, with booklet and great pictures, is excellent.

And even if, without a single doubt, some of the moments of the album are equally excellent ... somehow the album leaves me wanting. Smith's compositions are not unlike what he's created in the last few years, but they are little flattened even, less expressive, with themes that build up to long sustained high tones, full of dramatic effect, good to hear once in a while, but not the whole time.

And yes, the music is great, which can be expected with such great improvisers. It is a suite for the great lakes of North America, dedicated to origin, creation and transformation over time, their vast expanse on the continent, their dynamic flatness, their 'restrained explosiveness', as the liner notes describe. "Lake St. Clair", the last track is dedicated to Oliver Lake, and not a lake at all. The music is spiritual and uplifting and contemplative and all very aesthetic, yet in doing that also very repetitive in its approach and concept, with the ever ascending tones and lengthening notes as the core musical concept.

There is a lot to enjoy, withe especially Lindberg and DeJohnette offering us some fantastic moments, and it might be a great introduction to Smith's work for those unfamiliar with his music. For the real five-star albums by Wadada, check out this blog.


Antonio said...

Nice review, Stef!

Still, I absolutely loved this record. Red Hill was great too, but this one struck a chord with me.

In any case, mr. Smith continues with his great run of form. Can't wait for what he does next.

Ziryab said...

It takes just more time with this one. I agree, at first, it seems repetitive and he has done it in the past but then there are so many fantastic moments...

AGM said...

A certain pompousness has crept into Wadada's work that has put me off it. There is an inflated self-conception at work that is pernicious to the music.