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Happy Birthday, Mr. Smith

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



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