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Album Review

What We Live's Quintet for a Day is a superior and compelling example of collective improvisation. There is nothing here of the cacophonous collisions of multi-note contemporary free jazz. The approach of the members of this quintet is thoughtful and cooperative. The result is that while each person's extemporaneous performance adds color, the total collaboration equates to a unique sum, not an anonymous blast that would be similar from any matched instrumentation by jazz cats in an anarchist jam. Note, these are not structured pieces containing interludes of improvisation (like Don Cherry or Sun Ra) but pieces wholly created on the spot. And as the success of Miles Davis' explorations is based on what he does not play, so the strength of these group constructions is similarly based on the fact that they are listening as much as they are playing. Consequently, much dynamics and texture is afforded by the fact that rarely do all the musicians play at once and instruments come in and out of the mix constantly varying the sonic qualities and melodic direction. Conceptual continuity is largely due to the reliable and clear foundation laid by Lisle Ellis. On Quintet, the core trio of Larry Ochs (saxophones, Rova Saxophone Quartet), Lisle Ellis (bass, Glenn Spearman), and Donald Robinson (drums) is augmented by the addition of two trumpet players. Separated into different channels, these horn players are Wadada Leo Smith, a pioneer in new improvising composition techniques, and Dave Douglas (Masada).


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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What We Live: Quintet For A Day, Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith
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