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Monday, January 15, 2007

Wadada Leo Smith - Compassion *****

This is a unique CD, just trumpet and percussion. Wadada Leo Smith and Adam Rudolph both belong to the free jazz avant-garde, masters with great technical skill, unafraid to search for entirely new forms of expression, but always with a strong spiritual element into it. This kind of initiative often fails because the music itself suffers from this search for new form. Smith and Rudolph have both made albums for which you really need open ears in order to be able to endure the music till the end of the album at one stretch. On the other hand both have also already issued beautiful CDs with relative accessibility (Smith : Kulture Jazz, Rudolph & Pharoah Sanders : Spirits).
Compassion is again a spiritual journey, starting with lonely and voiceless stuttering by the trumpet, soon joined by slight percussion, like the sounds of the night. The second piece brings us dawn, and as the sun breaks through we get the long notes of Smith's trumpet, supported by Tibetan bells and gongs of Rudolph. This is a quite intimistic kind of improvisation without any preconceived structure, but with an authentic joint search to subdued beauty and emotional expression. On Fragrance of Light, Rudolph a changing rhythm on the framedrums, with great improvisation by Wadada. The pièce-de-resistance is the long "Love Rhythms, Heart Songs", on which Rudolph also sings, sometimes in overtone. On the last piece, The Caller and The Called, Rudolph digs up his dousn' gouni and we get sounds that remind us of Codona with Nana Vasconcelos and Don Cherry. This is music which will not directly appeal to those who expect clear melodies, structure and harmonic changes. It is in any case no mellow new-age emptiness, because despite the minimalistic line-up, the music is exciting from beginning to end, and the focus of both musicians is clearly kept on the creation of a coherent musical journey. Highly recommended.