A cosmic rhythm with each stroke features pianist Viay Iyer and the musician he has described as his “hero, friend and teacher”, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. Vijay has previously played extensively with Wadada in Smith’s Golden Quartet, but the present album is the first documentation of their duo work, produced by Manfred Eicher at New York’s Avatar Studios in October 2015. The centre-piece of the album is the spellbinding title suite, dedicated to Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990), the innovative Indian artist whose improvisatory imagery evokes abstracted rhythms.
In his liner notes to A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke, pianist/electronicist Vijay Iyer writes that while working in trumpeter/composer Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet/Quintet between 2005 and 2010, the pair often became "a unit within a unit." Evidenced by Tabligh in 2008 and Golden Quintet's half of the 2009 double-disc Spiritual Dimensions, this album (marking the trumpeter's first appearance on ECM in more than two decades) underscores that assertion via distillation. It is one of essences. It reveals the intricacies of music-making according to principles of instinct as well as close listening. Iyer's opening "Passage" is a surprise. The pianist's gently investigatory chords and thematic harmonics offer the hallmarks of a chamber piece.
Beautiful albums do not need many words. Pianist and composer Angelica Sanchez has invited Wadada Leo Smith to join her for a duo album, recorded in April of last year. Sanchez is a member of the trumpeter's "Organic" Ensemble, whose "Heart's Reflections" also received a 5-star rating on this blog. Smith made one trumpet-piano duo album before, "Interludes Of Breath & Substance" with Matthew Goodheart, which was good, but this one is truly excellent.
Two creative music legends who share a remarkable spiritual connection in their first duo outing. Originally proposed to ECM in 1979 and rejected, this rare musical treasure is a project that has been brewing for thirty years. Featuring six new compositions by one of the most consistently brilliant composer/performers out of the legendary AACM, and telepathic interplay by two virtuoso instrumentalists who have been pushing the musical envelope since the 1960s, Red Trumpet is one of the highlights of this or any other year. Recorded at Bill Laswell's New Jersey studio, the sound is impeccable and the music incendiary.
Occupy the World features the legendary composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith together with TUMO, a new improvising orchestra that is assembled specifically for each project, in its first appearance. The 22-piece orchestra performs five extended compositions by Smith, including "Occupy The World For Life, Liberty and Justice", his most extensive recorded composition to date, that was originally inspired by the Occupy movement. The four other compositions included on this double-CD were also recorded here for the first time.
Wadada Leo Smith's third Tzadik release finds him in a modern jazz quartet of seasoned jazz cats and legendary improvisers. Pianist Anthony Davis, bassist Malachi Favors Magoustous, and drummer Jack DeJohnette join Smith in creating an unhurried, mature and, frankly, atypical Tzadik release in that even though it may sound somewhat free to more conservative ears, it is hardly antagonistic and is unmistakably a piano jazz quartet. Regardless of classification, this is an album of excellent jazz that is so fresh and well executed as to define and remind what's great about listening to the music. It's a pleasant surprise that such an incredible lineup of musicians can come together and yield a musical sum still greater than what you would expect, when considering the individual "parts."