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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo — Ancestors (TUM, 2012) ****

By Stef

Any new album by Wadada Leo Smith is something to look out for. After the ambitious "Ten Freedom Summers", we find him back in one of his preferred duo formats in the company of one free improvisations' greatest drummers, Louis Moholo-Moholo, after having explored the line-up before on "America" with Jack DeJohnette, on "Wisdom In Time" with Günter Sommers, and on his more meditative "Compassion" with Adam Rudolph. 

The album starts with the slow "Moholo-Moholo/Golden Spirit", a slow, muted and meditative track penned by Smith in honor of the drummer. The second track is written in memory of American author James Baldwin, and is a prime example of controlled power. Both Smith and Moholo-Moholo are masters in using space, pace, emphasis and silence, thus creating a feeling of depth and spiritual flight, while maintaining a sense of tension and anticipation. 

The third track, an ode to action-painter Jackson Pollock, is of course more explosive, by resorting to sudden bursts and cymbal crashes over an otherwise relatively even canvas of sound. 

"Siholaro" is a composition by Moholo-Moholo in honor of his father and a really sad and compelling piece. 

Real instant improvisation starts with the long title track suite-like piece. And it is excellent : raw, tribal, fiery, without real sense of direction yet propulsed forward by the cohesive energy of both players, deepened by their common sense of spirituality ... and ending with a recitation of the names of the great (free) jazz ancestors as a prayer or incantation of respect ... Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Jack DeJohnette, Dudu Pukwanu, Johnny Dyani, Andrew Cyrille, Ed Blackwell, Art Blakey, Chris McGregor, Misha Mengelberg ... not surprisingly with a good representation of drummers and South-Africans. 

Great stuff. In his duets with drummers, this may not be my favorite one - I prefer the ones with DeJohnette and Blackwell - yet it's easy to recommend for fans of the musicians or of the concept. 


© stef