Wadada Leo Smith | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Long one of the most open-minded and adventurous trumpeters in improvised music, Wadada Leo Smith has been on an especially eclectic streak in recent years. He reconvened his Yo Miles! project with guitarist Henry Kaiser for last year's Upriver (Cuneiform), the latest in a series of investigations of Miles Davis's electric period. On 2003's Luminous Axis (Tzadik), he joined up with a slew of computer musicians that included Mark Trayle, Chris Brown, and Ikue More, placing his brittle trumpet improvisations over constantly shifting matrices of texture and color. And for this rare Chicago performance the AACM member will play solo, a format he helped pioneer on the instrument. On Red Sulphur Sky (Tzadik, 2001), his most recent solo album, he combines a sober lyricism, extended use of silence, and a freewheeling tonal imagination; he never forsakes the actual sound of the trumpet (or flugelhorn), but his stunning breath control, mute manipulations, and flexible embouchure allow him to contort it in all kinds of astonishing ways. He tirelessly reworks specific passages of his long-form compositions as he plays, articulating terse patterns in full-bodied blurts, sour, striated cries, and muted, pastel lines, all framed by a lucid compositional logic. The 5 After 7 Project, a group led by AACM member Saalik Ziyad, opens. Fri 5/5, 8 PM, Fulton Recital Hall, University of Chicago, 1010 E. 59th, 773-702-8069, $25. All ages.

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