Wadada Leo Smith

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I’ve been listening to Wadada Leo Smith for a long time; I own a lot of his albums, but his catalog is really large. I interviewed him for a cover story in The Wire in 2009, which he actually remembered — that surprised me a little. He was an early member of the AACM, collaborated extensively with Anthony Braxton in 1969 and 1970, made some beautiful records for ECM and Nessa in the 1970s (you should check out Divine Love and Spirit Catcher in particular), and has really never stopped putting out music. Earlier this year, I wrote about Matthew Shipp‘s New Orbit, a beautiful album that Wadada appeared on in 2001.

This year he’s turning 80, and he’s celebrating that with an absolute flood of new work — 20 CDs’ worth, spread across six or seven releases, all on TUM. One of those is a seven-CD box of just his string quartet recordings. That’s one of the fascinating things about Wadada, is that not only is he a brilliant trumpet player with a sound like no one else, but he’s also an extraordinary composer who developed his own musical language, Ankhrasmation. We talk about that in this interview, along with his approach to the horn, his approach to rhythm, which is very much his own, and a lot of other things.

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Music featured in this episode:
Wadada Leo Smith/Douglas R. Ewart/Mike Reed, “Super Moon Rising” (Sun Beans of Shimmering Light)
Wadada Leo Smith, “Albert Ayler” (Trumpet)