COMPOSERS: WADADA LEO SMITH
WORKS: Spiritual Dimensions
PERFORMER: Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet), Vijay Iyer (piano), John Lindberg (bass), Pheeroan AkLaff (drums), Don Moye (drums)
CATALOGUE NO: RUNE 290-91
Don’t worry if you find Smith’s ‘Ankhrasmation’ methodology scarcely more penetrable than Ornette Coleman’s theory of ‘Harmolodics’: the intellectual underpinnings fade with music as challenging and as enjoyable as this. Disc one spotlights his Golden Quintet, all-acoustic except for Iyer’s use of synth and electronic jiggery-pokery on ‘South Central LA Kulture’. Working in post-Ayler free jazz tradition, the Quintet keeps faith with Smith’s roots in the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
‘South Central’ prepares us for the ‘Kulture’ shock of the second disc, which opens with another version of the same tune, this time by Organic, a group bursting with electric guitars. Smith’s elegant introductory solo hovers as sound from the rest of the band wells up and the funk takes hold. Yet there is much delicacy, lyricism and flexibility in this set, too.
Smith is superb, and while there is fine playing from everyone else I’d single out Lindberg, who is a tower of strength and a bottomless well of invention on both sessions. Barry Witherden