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Ten Freedom Summers

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iTunes Review

An astounding work from one of the most vital jazz performers and composers of the contemporary era, Wadada Leo Smith’s 10 Freedom Summers is an album of pointed social commentary and deeply adventurous compositions. Smith patterned 10 Freedom Summers in part on the complex chronologies favored by playwright August Wilson, whose Pittsburgh Cycle consisted of 10 plays exploring the experiences of African-Americans in 10 separate decades. Here, Wadada Leo Smith crafts a series of ambitious extended narratives that are meant to represent everything from the Dred Scott case and the Montgomery bus boycott to the deaths of Medgar Evers and Emmett Till and the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Smith and his gifted accompanists (including longtime collaborators Anthony Davis and John Lindberg, as well as comparative newcomers like Susie Ibarra) execute it all with grace and precision. 10 Freedom Summers, with its four-hour-plus runtime and myriad stylistic detours, is certainly a forbidding listen, but for those willing to devote their time and attention it will prove an infinitely rewarding one.


Born: December 18, 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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