Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wadada Leo Smith

John Clare, in his article on the SIMA (Sydney Improvised Music Association) website speaks warmly of Wadada Leo Smith's visit (at that time impending) visit to Australia. I hope he had a chance to hear a concert or more...

And even though there were no Melbourne Jazz concerts to be found on the program for the festival's opening night [hint to next year's Melbourne Jazz organisers....], I did find somewhere go to last night. Wadada Leo Smith, at Bennetts Lane. He was playing with Brisbane's Yusuke Akai (guitar), Melbourne's Erkki Veltheim (violin), and Sydney's Dale Gorfinkel (vibraphone), Peter Farrar (alto sax), Sam Dobson (acoustic bass) and Alex Masso (drums). Hooray for the Melbourne Jazz Cooperative (MJC) for getting him here... And I couldn't help wondering why he wasn't a big feature, international star guest at the Melbourne Jazz Fringe... ah well. I'm only a punter... ours not to reason why...

Some of the sounds I heard last nght, I couldn't get my head around but they kept me there, waiting sometimes for what would happen next. Sometimes trying to 'get it' (usually a waste of time but I just keep trying!!) but never, never, tired of it. The timing and the space he creates were what kept me leaning forward and wanting more (I pinched that from Phil Slater, who helped me out with how to talk about what I was hearing.) and I was rewarded regularly enough to keep me happy. Which is what it's all about, right?

Wadada Leo Smith watched and guided the musicians he was playing with... actively involved in making this happen. He was peacefully, consciously present, engaged and helping to keep them there too. I did get a sense of space, a beautiful sense of a guiding hand over and around the sounds these guys were making. We journeyed from carefully constructed grooving rhythms that had feet tapping all over the room, to passages of seeming chaos that had the guy in the front row shaking and rolling his head like there was a moth in his ear (no joke! He looked like he was enjoying himself so much I was tempted to try it... there are so many ways to listen to music!) and then slowly slowly a quietness was allowed in and space was created for the heavenly clear notes of Wadada's trumpet...

Challenging? At times, Ye Gods, yes! But I'd been primed... Gerry Koster has been playing alot of Wadada Leo Smith on his Jazz Up Late programme on ABC Classic FM so I knew what to expect.

While Wadada Leo Smith would hardly have been a programming choice for Melbourne Jazz, he was coincidentally performing on the festival's first night, which-as mentioned previously probably has no concerts in the program because the night is given over to the unadvertised, secret squirrelly Bell Awards. It was only on leaving Bennetts Lane last night that a friend showed me pile of DL cards saying 'You're invited!' and realised that the 6:00 - 8:00 pm awards ceremony was probably something I could have gone to. Ooops! Why hadn't I heard that previously? Bugger!

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