WADADA LEO SMITH — America's National Parks (review)

WADADA LEO SMITH — America's National Parks album cover Album · 2016 · 21st Century Modern Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
“Tracing back to Wadada Leo Smith’s most recent epic masterpieces, The Great Lakes Suites and especially Ten Freedom Summers” ( excerpt from the album’s notes) concerning the double album “America’s National Parks” construction and contents”. Wadada has changed how he does musical writing and notations with his theory of Ankhrasmation which uses a set of four colours and depending where they are positioned on the chart, left or right being slow or fast with six rhythm units included that start long and then become short with the cover for his album “Sonic Rivers” showing one example of this type of intonations and how “America’s National Park” was composed with the orchestra having a fixed bound input and the soloist free to go where he wants. The ensemble that was used for the album was Wadada’s Golden Quintet which has had quite a change in its line up throughout the years with this current one containing Anthony Davis on piano, Ashley Walters, cello, His old cohort John Lindberg on bass, Pheeroan akLaff, drumming and of course Wadada on trumpet as well as directing the ensemble. One other mention is Jesse Gilbert being a video artist as when the pieces were recorded film was running in front of the ensemble for each National Park pertaining to which piece was being played for it. Although not technically Free Jazz it does have on the album an element of it concerning the soloists.

“New Orleans: The National Culture Park USA 1718” opens being a 21 minute in length composition with Pheeroan akLaff drum’s and Wadada’s trumpet commencing proceedings and the band following in fairly quickly as the music seems to be slowly getting stretched with more and more extensions from the trumpet and Anthony Davis’ piano becoming gradually more complex with the cello seemingly being pushed more to the front but the music does change when Davis’s piano returns with quite a lovely complex solo of varying times and then John Lindberg gets pushed to the front on bass for a delightful bass solo and input which gradually is moved out of the way for Ashley Davis on cello to have a shot with Wadada coming back to close things up. There are two other compositions Eileen Jackson Southern, 1920-2002; A Literary National Park” and “Yellowstone: The First National Park and The Sprit of America- The Mountains, Super-Volcano Caldera and Its Ecosystem 1872” following and although “Eileen Jackson Southern” not being quite as dramatic in sound as “Yellowstone” but that does not mean “Yellowstone” is bombastic either with its gradual opening containing seemingly more space than the prior composition. and I love Anthony’s piano solo within.

Disc 2: Three more suites are included opening “The Mississippi River: Dark and Deep Dreams Flow The River-a National Memorial Park c. 5000 BC and as the first on Disc 1 it is the longest track running for 31 minutes with each musician having quite an individual input and often in short bursts entirely alone within the composition often punctuated with sharp trumpet interjections from Wadada but you could not name it as call and response either for this extremely interesting number where later into the composition Anthony Davis is playing the same four notes repetitively with Wadada’s trumpet just soaring in bursts with more change still to come within. “Sequoia/Kings Canyon national Parks: The Giant forest, Great Canyon, Cliffs, Peaks, Waterfalls and Cave systems 1890” having the longest title is actually the shortest track with piano and trumpet and plenty of space brought to the fore with the album finishing up with the majestic “Yosemite: The Glaciers, the Falls, the wells and the Valley of Goodwill 1890”

Highly original and interesting album which won awards in 2017. Although it is about the Parks, the politics concerning them played just as big a part in the album’s compositions and one would be going to find anything even close to similar in releases unless Wadada did it himself. Getting a bit tired with Bop, Third Stream, Fusion and Avante Garde well try this one for something refreshingly different.
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