Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet-Tabligh; Cuneiform, 2008

Disaster Amnesiac wonders, do Jazz records achieve Gold Status anymore? This session from Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet surely merits those kinds of numbers, as far a listeners go.
For proof, take for instance the band Smith assembled for this 2005 live recording. Keyboard player Vijay Iyer moves from the 1960's Modal/Fusion  Rhodes feels on Rosa Parks to post-Bop acoustic interactivity on DeJohnette, to wild abandon on Tabligh and quiet introspective sounds on Caravan of Winter. Iyer plays with creativity and style throughout. What Jazz fan would not want to listen to him here? Then there's bassist John Lindberg. Like Iyer, he switches from fat, funky electricity on Parks to subtler acoustic grooves on DeJohnette and into all-out avant abstraction and back again on the title track. His solo therein is particularly out and fun. Disaster Amnesiac was particularly surprised to find drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson on Tabligh. One usually hears him within his own group, Decoding Society, or with the balls to the wall Jazz Metal of Last Exit.Jackson is no mere sideman. Thankfully, Smith pretty clearly didn't expect him to play as such, and the payoff is great. It is revelatory to hear Jackson play within Smith's group. His signature robust style is on full display, but shows a kind of restraint. It's as if he held back a bit on his strokes. Still, his wide open beats and solid rhythmic feels boosts the tunes into spaces that are simultaneously wide open and tight. Jackson is a drummer who sounds like he's always listening to the band as they improvise. He comments, speaks with his drum set. Shannon always makes things move. Lastly, please don't forget the playing of the band leader. It strikes Disaster Amnesiac that the decision to play Jazz trumpet must be a tough one. I mean, one would have Armstrong, Gillespie, and Davis towering up above. Wadada rises up to the level of said Masters, though, playing darting, jabbing sounds a la Miles, high blasts like Diz, or primal sounds of Louis. His solos on Tabligh are sharp, inventive, and very musical. He also gives the band plenty of time to play around these tunes' structures, and one gets the sense that his conduction was vital and present in the live setting. Leo has clearly become a Master himself.
Does Tabligh warrant mass acceptance and listener appreciation? Absolutely. It, like the band which conjured up its sounds, is Golden indeed.

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