Wadada Leo Smith: 2012 comission from the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard.
The Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University has selected trumpeter/composer/musical innovator Wadada Leo Smith as one of fourteen composers to receive a 2012 Fromm commission.
With the commission, Smith will write a new work to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Tentatively titled "The March on Washington D.C. - August 28, 1963, " this will be the 22nd composition in Smith's highly acclaimed civil rights opus Ten Freedom Summers, which the trumpeter has written over the past 34 years and calls "one of my life's defining works."
The new work - composed for Smith's Golden Quartet, along with string quartet and harp - will premiere on the final evening of a three-night performance of the complete Ten Freedom Summers collection at Roulette in Brooklyn, New York on May 1 - 3, 2013.
A kaleidoscopic, spiritually charged collection of compositions inspired by the struggle for African-American freedom, Ten Freedom Summers was released on CD on the Cuneiform label in May 2012. It has been heralded as "his masterpiece, " (Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine), "the veteran trumpeter's defining statement, " (Mike Hobart, Financial Times), "the most challenging (and emotionally rewarding) release of 2012, " (Bret Saunders, Denver Post), "stirringly beautiful Š an astounding aesthetic achievement." (Michael Casper, Oxford American), "an emotional and intellectual luxury, a chance to commune with greatness, " (Josh Langhoff, Pop Matters), and "the work of a lifetime by one of jazz's true visionaries. Š Triumphant and mournful, visceral and philosophical, searching, scathing and relentlessly humane, Smith's music embraces the turbulent era's milestones while celebrating the civil rights movement's heroes and martyrs." (Bruce Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery).
Composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, whose roots are in the Delta blues, is one of the most boldly original figures in American jazz and creative contemporary music, and one of the great trumpet players of our time. Born and raised in Leland, Mississippi, Smith start playing trumpet in R&B bands, encouraged by his stepfather, blues guitarist Alex Wallace. By the mid 1960s, he had gravitated to Chicago's burgeoning avant-garde jazz community where he was part of the first generation of musicians to come out of Chicago's AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music). Smith formed the Creative Construction Company together with saxophonist Anthony Braxton and violinist Leroy Jenkins and collaborated with a dazzling cast of fellow visionaries including Muhal Richard Abrams, Richard Davis and Steve McCall. Early in his career, Smith invented an original music notational system called Anhkrasmation, which was radical for its time and remains the physical and philosophical foundation of his oeuvre.
Since the early 1970s, Smith has performed and recorded mainly with his own groups. He currently leads four principal ensembles: Mbira, a trio with pipa player Min Xiao-Fen and drummer Pheeroan akLaff; the Golden Quartet, his highly celebrated group that now includes Anthony Davis, John Lindberg and Pheeroan akLaff; Organic, a larger ensemble that utilizes instrumentation consisting primarily of electric string instruments; and the Silver Orchestra, which explores Smith's music for large ensemble. He has released nearly 50 albums under either his own or his bands' names on ECM, Moers, Black Saint, Tzadik, Pi Recordings, TUM, Leo, Intakt and Cuneiform, among others. In addition to the 4-CD Ten Freedom Summers, he also recently released Ancestors, a duo CD with Louis Moholo-Moholo on the TUM label.
Smith has been awarded grants and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Chamber Music America with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the FONT (Festival of New Trumpet Music) Award of Recognition, Southwest Chamber Music funded by the James Irvine Foundation and the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, the MAP Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. An esteemed educator and music theorist, Smith has been on faculty since 1993 at Cal Arts, where he is director of the African American Improvisational Music Program and has profoundly influenced several generations of artists.
Founded by the patron of contemporary music, the late Paul Fromm, the Fromm Foundation is now in its 60th year, having been located at Harvard University for the past several decades. Since the 1950s, it has commissioned well over 300 new compositions and their performances, and has sponsored hundreds of new music concerts and concert series. "I want to know you, " Igor Stravinsky once said to Fromm, "because contemporary music has many friends but only a few lovers."
These commissions represent one of the principal ways that the Fromm Music Foundation seeks to strengthen composition and to bring contemporary concert music closer to the public. In addition to the commissioning fee, a subsidy is available for the ensemble performing the premiere of the commissioned work.
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