Wadada Leo Smith & Amina Claudine Myers (ENG review)

Central Park‘s mosaics of reservoir, lake, pathways and gardens // Red Hock Records – Street date, My 10th 2024
Wadada Leo Smith & Amina Claudine Myers

Exciting duo, featuring Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet and Amina Claudine Myers on piano and Hammond B3. Wadada, a trumpeter as impressive as Miles Davis, captivates us with his deeply internal, provocative, and radical universe. To fully appreciate this album, which is anything but indifferent but whose purely intellectual approach might deter some, you need a few years of jazz under your belt. Imagine the emotional impact such a duo can produce; here, we sit and listen attentively, ready to embark on a uniquely sublime musical adventure.

The duo paints scenes and evokes landscapes with the musical soundscapes created by Smith’s supple trumpet and Myers’ fervent piano and organ. Inspired by the natural splendors of Central Park, the album evokes tones of nostalgia, desire, wonder, dissonance, and peace. Central Park possesses a thoughtful quality, a slowness that lends it depth while reflecting the seriousness of its creators. The album is marked by the convergence of two iconic sounds and by an intentional texture created between their two instruments and the fully enveloped sound by their individual musical refrains, as well as the space between them.

I ponder a title like “The Harlen Meer.” It’s impossible for me not to recall those moments filming for foreign television where my lens captured Miles Davis on stage, sometimes holding our breath as a note struck us. Similarly, on this track, Wadada delves into the notes, searches, and inspires, perhaps facing away from the audience as Miles might have done. The album guides the listener through a series of elegant and introspective episodes, each imbued with a profound sense of depth and emotional resonance. Smith’s trumpet, with its radiant tones and illuminating presence, serves as a beacon of hope and elevation.

“Central Park’s mosaics of reservoir, lake, pathways, and gardens” is a balancing act between two immense artists who walk a tightrope filled with invisible notes. One cannot emerge unscathed from such an experience. “Le Harlem Meer” strikes a relaxed chord with nostalgic nuances—reflecting the water feature in the northeast corner of Central Park—a place of relaxation and contemplation where park-goers can often be found observing wildlife, picnicking, and fishing. The album’s closing tributes to Albert Ayler and John Lennon further underscore the artists’ commitment to peace and social justice, infusing the music with a transcendental sense of purpose.

This album is to be listened to in the same way one seeks to capture the essence of a painting at an exhibition. Sometimes we get carried away by a stroke, a color, a strange sensation. If you have the soul of an art adventurer, if for you a poem is a source of happiness, if you’re the type to stroll along the sea in winter and let yourself be pierced, then you will find that this album is not only “indispensable” but also destined to become a reference that will be talked about for decades to come.

Central Park is the latest release from the adventurous label Red Hook Records, founded in 2020 by Sun Chung after a decade with ECM. “It was a rare privilege to work with these two masters, even more so when the results are astounding. The music on this album reaches depths only achievable through a life dedicated to the arts,” he reflects. This album follows the critically acclaimed trio recording “Refract” by BlankFor.ms, Jason Moran, and Marcus Gilmore, and “Two Centuries,” Red Hook’s first collaboration with Wadada Leo Smith, featuring Qasim Naqvi and Andrew Cyrille.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, April 28th 2024

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To buy this album

Wadada Leo Smith’s website

Amina Claudine Myers’s website