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Dark Lady Of The Sonnets


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Audio CD, January 17, 2012
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$17.90 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details Only 2 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Wadada Leo Smith's Mbira is an ensemble that works within the idiom of American creative music but also in the realms of the Mbira music of the Shona culture in Zimbabwe and even traditional Chinese music. With pipa player Min Xiao-Fen and drummer Pheeroan akLaff, Wadada Leo Smith has produced an album that is powerful and instantly captivating, ancient and contemporary at the same time. Dark Lady of the Sonnets contains five compositions by Smith, ranging from a memorial for his late mother Sarah Bell Wallace to the title-track inspired by the great Billie Holiday. Dark Lady of the Sonnets is released to coincide with the celebration of Wadada Leo Smith's 70th birthday at the Roulette Theater, in Brooklyn, New York, on December 15 and 16, 2011. In connection with these two concerts, Mbira as well as five other groups led by Smith (String Quartet Plus, the Golden Quartet, the Golden Quintet, Organic and the Silver Orchestra) were all set to perform.

Review

Every few years master composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith surprises with a new outfit that fits wonderfully in his rich and complex musical universe. The Mbira trio is no exception: a timeless, multidimensional trio, inspired by revered ancestors but with its course set for a possible future. In this trio, Smith contextualizes the spiritual veins of the American school of free jazz, the Mbira (thumb piano) music of the Shona culture in Zimbabwe, and traditional Chinese music, all in a contemporary and highly personal language - and as usual, delivering a powerful and most beautiful human document.

His comrades are Min Xiao-Fen, a virtuoso on the ancient Chinese-lute-like pipa who has collaborated with forward-thinking improvisers such as Derek Bailey and John Zorn, and drummer Pheeroan akLaff, who has played with Smith since the mid-seventies. Dark Lady of the Sonnets' release coincides with Smith's 70th birthday celebrations in December, 2011.

There are five thematic suites, composed specifically for this trio. The first, the bluesy Sarah Bell Wallace, was written as a memorial for Smith's late mother. All elements of this trio gel organically: Smith's fiery non-metrical blowing; the ornamented textures of Xiao-Fen's loose theme; and akLaff's polyrhythmic base. Blues: Cosmic Beauty celebrates ''the beautiful creation that Allah the Almighty made'' in a number of dimensions, beginning with Smith and akLaff's energetic duet - both shifting between different pulses - until Xiao-Fen joins and begins a more meditative duet with Smith, who articulating his ideas with poetic richness and, later, adding spare vocals.

Zulu Water Festival was inspired by an image of 60,000 Zulus dancing near a quiet lake. It has a strong melodic theme, articulated by Smith and then echoed by Xiao-Fen in her most Chinese-sounding playing of the date, while akLaff engulfs their gestures with ceremonial drumming in the background. The title track is dedicated to singer Billie Holiday, ''a voice larger than our world,'' as Smith writes in a poem of the same name, sung with an emotional, operatic voice by Xiao-Fen. The music was created for a dance ballet, and is sketched in contemplative and minimal lines, mostly as a subdued duet between Smith and Xiao-Fen's vocals and pipa that intensifies in its second part with the addition of akLaff. Mbira is the most complex and intense composition, also made for a dance ballet. It is a deeply ceremonial sonic journey structured in melodic unites that are connected in performance, demanding from each member of the trio to link his improvised element to the others improvised parts.

A masterpiece, from beginning to end. --Eyal Hareuveni, All About Jazz, 2/24/12


1. Sarah Bell Wallace
2. Blues: Cosmic Beauty
3. Zulu Waterfall Festival
4. Dark Lady Of The Sonnets
5. Mbira

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