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Luminous Axis

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Album Review

Paramount among several excellent albums by Wadada Leo Smith that appeared during the first years of the 21st century on John Zorn's Tzadik label, Luminous Axis — The Caravans of Winter and Summer is described by the artist as "An Electronic Sonic Garden of Delights and Transformations, Events 1-15." Smith's trumpet is heard at its most intimate and inspired, with percussionist William Winant and a team of technically adept improvisers (John Bischoff, Chris Brown, Ikue Mori, Tim Perkis, and Mark Trayle) who handle what are described as computer-driven electronics. The effect is pleasantly unpredictable and at times delightfully disorienting. Wadada Leo Smith is a master of improvisation who balances sound and silence with a combination of theatrical freedom and ritualistic discipline that can be breathtaking. It is certainly one of this artist's all-time best efforts, similar in many ways to some of Anthony Braxton's collaborations with Richard Teitelbaum. The electronic element can and does appeal to 21st century ears, hearts, and minds.


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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Luminous Axis, Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith
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