“FREE” OR CONFINED? Wadada Leo Smith & Tumo: Occupy The World, Hush Point: Hush Point

When does “Free” or “Avant Garde” start sounding restricted, and when does it actually “advance”? These two recent releases serve as examples for asking these  questions.

Trumpeter/composer is one of my all time favorite performers. His last couple releases have been sonic joys, and even if your idea of “outside” music is Brad Mehldau, you’ll love almost anything he’s done the past 4-5 years with music ranging from exciting duets with drummer, to small group free for alls. This couble disc set has Smith going fro an ambitious  p roject; he conducts and composes 5 songs ranging from 15-33 minutes with TUMO, a 21  piece band that includes strings and various eclectic instruments. While “Queen Hatshepsut” has some exciting Middle Eastern moods, other pieces like “The Bell” or “Crossing On a Southern Road” come across more like background themes for a Hitchcock movie, with Smith’s solos sounding more confining than liberating. Death March drums on “Occupy the World” and John Lindberg’s bass solo on “Mount Kilimanjaro” are more changes in moods than elaborations of a them, and after all has been said and done, you have to ask what the point here actually was.

More intriguing is the team of John McNeil/tp, Jeremy Udden/as, Aryeh Kobrinsky/b and Vinnie Sperrazza/dr mixing 50s West Coast Cool a la Jimmy Giuffre and Shorty Rogers with Ornette Coleman explorations of harmonies and solos. Giuffre’s own “Iranic” and “The Train and the River” sound absolutely modern, palpably rich in texture and panoramically radiant. Udden’s alto on “Peachful” and B. Remembered” is as creamy as a Macciatto, and McNeil’s trumpeton “Cat Magnet”  is a soft as a morning sunrise. The rhythm team is like what we could use for MLB umpires-the best you never really notice, except that everything went so well. Really impressive set!

TUM Records


Sunnyside Records



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