Wadada Leo Smith | Univ. of Chicago Logan Center for the Arts | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Wadada Leo Smith Free All Ages Soundboard Recommended Image

When: Sat., Oct. 24, 7 p.m. 2015

Nothing testifies more to the enduring power of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)—now in the midst of its 50th anniversary—than the artistic restlessness and curiosity of its key members. And like his winds-playing cohorts Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill, 73-year-old trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith looks forward by forging new partnerships and fresh settings. This weekend he commemorates the closing of an exhibition at the Renaissance Society that focuses on his graphic scores. On Saturday he leads his long-running Golden Quartet, a powerhouse ensemble with an elastic range that celebrates Smith’s jazz roots while simultaneously torching any notion of old-fashioned sentiment (this version features superb, convention-busting pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, and drummer Mike Reed). Smith plays solo on Sunday, a rigorous and demanding practice that he largely pioneered for his instrument. It’s also worth noting that though Anthony Braxton is probably the most famous exponent of graphic scores in the AACM, Smith has been experimenting with the notation style since 1967—in fact, his graphic piece “The Bell” turned up on Braxton’s influential 1968 debut album 3 Compositions of New Jazz (Delmark). He’s long used graphic scoring to facilitate his system of “Ankhrasmation,” in which sonic colors, lines, and shapes are illustrated with symbols rather than conventional notes. Simply put: the scores are as beautiful visually as they are musically. Saturday’s performance is preceded by a panel discussion with Smith, Davis, and curators Hamza Walker and John Corbett, and video artist Jesse Gilbert will add visual elements to both of Smith’s performances.

Peter Margasak

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