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Light Upon Light

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Album Review

Wadada Leo Smith's second recording for the Tzadik label, Light Upon Light, is more spacious and a little colder than his first, Tao-Njia. It consists of five compositions performed by varying lineups, including his group N'Da Kulture. The opening composition is performed by California's EAR Unit, who are also heard on Tao-Njia. "Moths, Flames, and the Giant Sequoia Redwood Trees" is a slightly atmospheric, scenic piece that includes the welcome presence of Vicki Ray's piano playing. Following this is a rather dramatic solo viola composition, on which high vibratos hint at the lower harmonic and melodic modes that the heard notes are only a variant of, or harmony to. Next comes "MultiAmerica," a work of sound effects, spoken word, and Smith's trumpet. "Nur," performed by New Century Players, was composed for the bassist Bertram Turetzky. It starts out minimal, with bass clusters, until celesta and harmonium toll in more activity and the composition gradually swells toward crescendo, then drops into a fast dwindle before actually peaking. During "A Thousand Cranes: A Memorial for Amir Hamzehi," Mark Trayle achieves accordion-like effects through electronics, while Smith provides slow trumpet statements that reverb and fade.


Born: 18 December 1941 in Leland, MS

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A consistently adventurous trumpeter who has stuck to playing avant-garde jazz and classical music throughout his career, Leo Smith's dry, introverted style (which makes extensive use of space) is a strong contrast to the more jubilant flights of Lester Bowie. Smith originally played drums, mellophone, and French horn before settling on trumpet. He has also created a systemic musical language he calls Ankhrasmation, which has proved to be significant in his development as an artist and as an educator....
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Light Upon Light, Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith
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