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The Year of the Elephant


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Performer Notes
  • Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet, flugelhorn); Anthony Davis (piano, synthesizer); Jack DeJohnette (synthesizer, drums); Malachai Favors Maghustut (bass).
  • Recorded at MRS Studios, Catskill, New York on April 18 & 19, 2002.
  • Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet); Anthony Davis (piano, synthesizer); Jack DeJohnette (synthesizer, drums).
  • Recording information: NRS, Catskill, NY (04/18/2002/04/19/2002).
  • Photographers: G‚rard Rouy; Harumi Makino Smith.
  • Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith moves from Tzadik to the upstart Pi label for the second release with his Golden Quartet, again featuring Anthony Davis on piano, Malachi Maghostut Favors on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. This measured, thoughtful music doesn't fit neatly into the avant-garde category, although its harmonic language is often open-ended and mildly dissonant. Both Davis and DeJohnette are credited on synthesizer, but the sounds they employ are remarkably close to the old-fashioned, analog Wurlitzer. Combined with Favors' resonant, grooving basslines and DeJohnette's loose straight-eighth rhythms -- on the opening "Al-Madinah," for instance -- the result is somewhat akin to Miles Davis in the In a Silent Way period. A similarly diffuse, vamp-based feel underlies "The Zamzam Well a Stream of a Pure Light," while "Piru" is even more spacious, with muted trumpet cries and drifting rubato sonorities. "Kangaroo's Hollow" offers an intimate look at the tight Smith-Davis rapport by featuring them in a stark duo setting. The title track comes the closest to what can simply be called free jazz; starting as a kind of moderate shout-blues, it soon speeds up, with Smith and Davis playing angular unison lines that set the stage for bracing, freewheeling improv. Finally, "Miles Star in 3 Parts" moves from mellow rubato textures to a jumpy, insistent theme, the bassline of which is played by Davis, not Favors -- just one example of how Smith uses the instruments at hand in unexpected ways. ~ David R. Adler
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