Today in 1941, in Leland, Mississippi, Wadada Leo Smith was born. Over the last few years, Smith has become not only one of my favorite trumpet players – for his tone, for his technique, for his fearless improvisation – but also one of my favorite musicians, period.
I don’t want to get all weird on you, but there’s a spiritual quality to his music that’s, I dunno…somehow necessary right about now. Not in a corrective or a political sense; just as a reminder that some things are simply bigger than we are. And it sometimes takes an artist like Smith to reveal that bigness, if you will.
Anyway, if you have a music lover on your Christmas list this year, you could do a lot worse than picking from Smith’s extensive discography. (He’s released 30 albums since 2000 alone.) Some favorites of mine: Divine Love (ECM, 1979), Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform, 2012), The Great Lakes Suite (TUM, 2014), A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke* (ECM, 2016), and Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk (TUM, 2017).
*with Vijay Iyer