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Showing 1-8 of 8 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 10 reviews
on December 29, 2012
Ten Freedom Summers is a collection of compositions mixing chamber orchestration provided by the ten-member Southwest Chamber Music ensemble and the cerebral avant-garde jazz we normally associate with WL Smith, provided by the familiar Golden Quartet. The tracks average about twelve minutes in length and range from five to over twenty minutes, spanning four discs.

This is the culmination of decades of work and is not simply an appendix to his more well-known works; the nineteen compositions here might be some of the most patiently and intricately-crafted of his career (or anybody's career), and I don't say 'patient' or 'intricate' lightly. In fact, in the few months I've been listening, I've yet to come close to wrapping my head around it because there's just so much happening within every track. The way it blends the now-well-known avant-garde jazz traditions with what is considered 'classical music' distances the album considerably from any familiar genre, although the jazzier sections owe a lot to Miles Davis's atmospheric style (In A Silent Way, Bitch's Brew).

Unlike most of jazz, the compositions here are more theatrical; enjoying them almost requires that you sit still and listen. It's therefore not easy to put it on a 'best-of-2012' list alongside names like Vijay Iyer. Despite its low-key release (like most of WL Smith's) and the fact that it was recorded in less time than the average lo-fi punk album (live, in 3 sessions), this could very well someday qualify as one of the most important recordings in modern music. If you're on the ropes about buying this, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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on February 6, 2014
Now I am a white guy and European, and very far from the emotional distress/joy/effort this music conveys in terms of historical importance. I simply listen to this music and I am flabbergasted. There is such much energy, consciousness, willing, lust and daredevil playfulness in these records that I confess to be completely overwhelmed. And I guess that is the real magic about Wadada: you do not have to understand physically/emotionally the huge struggle of what today is again called the "black race" (used to be African-American, a couple of years ago) to appreciate the depth, the intensity, the hunger, the rage, the joy inside this music - and its beauty. The racial/sociologic battle, even I can see, is far from over. It will take us a long time to come to reason. But then, this music takes us to utopia heights, to wonders of imagination and feeling where we can, hopefully, see a different future. Let's work on it! Enjoy this masterpiece and appreciate life's big and small challenges.
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VINE VOICEon October 20, 2013
a friend walked in while TEN FREEDOM SUMMERS was playing. she groaned that the music sounded like something composed for tolstoi. i couldn't argue with her. this collection is stony, monumental. elegiac fanfares, some complete, others extend into more improvisational pieces. the spaces between smith's spare notes are filled with drumming that picks up from where the sound of the trumpet fades into oblivion. the drumming is full and bombastic.

there are four cds, a total of nineteen songs, seven of the selections are performed by a chamber ensemble, the southwest chamber music, with the occasional accompaniment from one of the members of smith's golden quintet.

the quintet is comprised of smith on trumpet, anthony davis on piano, john lindberg on bass, susan ibarra and pheeroan aklaff share drum duty, solo work by them is listed in the notes on the lineup.

it's no secret that a great deal of the music that came out of the 1970s jazz scene around aacm, sounds like military music played predominantly for military and state funerals. TEN FREEDOM SUMMERS follows as part of that tradition. and in the tradition of oliver nelson's THE KENNEDY DREAM and ornette coleman's SKIES OF AMERICA, TEN FREEDOM SUMMERS combines jazz and european concert music as tribute to moments and persons who stood out in the history of the united states.

TEN FREEDOM SUMMERS is not a suite, with all nineteen pieces functioning as parts of a single composition, however, there is plenty of music so that various arrangements create different listening experiences, such as listening to the chamber music pieces together in a sitting.

wadada leo smith as improviser, composer, compositionist, has never been as thought provoking or introspective as someone like muhal richard abrams or anthony braxton, which makes a serious project like the one at hand accessible listening. as always his trumpet style carries influences of the melodic sides of lester bowie and miles davis. a notable exception to the somber music of TEN FREEDOM SUMMERS, are upbeat parts managed by john lindberg's bass plunking on THURGOOD MARSHALL AND BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION: A DREAM OF EQUAL EDUCATION, 1954. an attorney friend shared with me that thurgood marshall was a jazz aficionado, who reportedly walked through the halls of the supreme court building, popping his fingers and nodding his head to jazz, and probably would have appreciated the selection in his honor.

what complexity required is provided by the members of the quintet. the space within smith's compositions and the overtones of his playing on trumpet provides an excellent setting for anthony davis' introspections, one of the most introspective and thought provoking pianists playing. his work on both THE D.C. WALL: A WAR MEMORIAL FOR ALL TIMES and BUZZSAW: THE MYTH OF A FREE PRESS is outstanding.

another highlight is the arrangement of jazz quintet and chamber orchestra on MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: MEMPHIS, THE PROPHECY, which easily lends itself to voice. in the future, hopefully, public speakers, and singers, of the speeches of martin luther king, jr. will consider the selection as accompaniment.
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on July 25, 2012
A monumental achievement. Very gratifying to see Wadada methodically delineate in his titles the direct revolutionary connection--a connection that always exists but is rarely made explicit--between the jazz avant-garde and the history of the (ongoing) struggle for social justice in America. It would be nice if this set included, say, a 60-page booklet that filled in this history in detail for those with little background in this area, but at under $24 for a four-disc set--which is even cheaper than the download, for some reason--this is not even a quibble. Hats off to Cuneiform, Wadada, and all the musicians for making this an eleventh freedom summer.
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on December 11, 2012
Wadada Leo Smith has been very active in recording recently and this is the realization of a long-term project. He goes back and forth between performing with a small group (Golden Quartet/Quintet) and a contemporary classical group (and both). This reasonably priced four disc set is full of challenging music for the listener that probably should be enjoyed one disc at a time rather than a marathon listening session. Despite the quality of the set, anybody unfamiliar with Smith should probably investigate his earlier small group recordings to determine if this would be to their liking.
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on September 28, 2013
A masterwork effectively, and organically, bringing together the strengths of through-composed music and the capacities of masters of improvisational approaches.
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on March 6, 2017
Rough around the edges, but in a good way. This is an important document of innovative jazz and experimentation.
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on August 23, 2014
The best music there is. Freedom music.
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