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Iconic Composer And Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith Presents 2nd Annual CREATE Festival April 7-8 In New Haven, CT

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One of the most innovative bodies of work in American music since the 1960s. —Adam Shatz, The New York Review of Books
“A trumpeter and composer of penetrating insight.” —Nate Chinen, The New York Times

Legendary composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith presents the Second Annual CREATE Festival in New Haven, CT, a two-day celebration and exploration of his inventive and unclassifiable music that will feature world or US premiere performances of four new suites. Taking place Saturday, April 7 and Sunday, April 8, 2018 at Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street, New Haven, CT, the festival will include performances by five separate ensembles over two evenings and include an exhibit of Smith’s Ankhrasmation Symbolic Language Scores. Performances take place at 7 p.m. each evening; exhibition walk-through on Sunday at 3 p.m. A full schedule of events is below. Tickets are $30 for each of the concerts; $55 for both. There is no charge for the exhibit. For information, please call 203-785-0468 or go here.

The festival debuted in April 2017 with a weekend of performances and discussions in New Haven, CT, where it will continue each year. Create West followed at the Lab in San Francisco in December 2017. This year’s edition will include two World and two U.S. premieres of suites penned by Smith, with inspiration culled from the natural world, the cosmos, politics and a much-needed plea for tolerance. These pieces add significantly to what Adam Shatz of the New York Review of Books calls, “one of the most innovative bodies of work in American music since the 1960s.”

“This idea had been in a dream state for many, many years,” Smith says of the festivals. That long-cherished dream is being realized with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which awarded Smith the Doris Duke Artist Award in 2016. CREATE offers a thrilling, rare opportunity to delve deeply into the full scope of Smith’s sui generis compositional voice and approach, which – in their category-defying range and breadth—can only be classified using Smith’s preferred term, “Creative Music.”

The weekend opens with an ensemble led by guitarist Lamar Smith (Wadada’s grandson), featuring electronic artist Hardedge and drummer Thurman Barker. Saturday’s program continues with the world premiere of Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Unseen Suite, a piece inspired by the great mysteries of the universe. The suite features Smith’s Kosmic Music Ensemble, in which Wadada’s trumpet is joined by vibraphonist Bobby Naughton, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, guitarist Lamar Smith, drummer Thurman Barker, and Jawara on jimbe and percussion.

The opening evening will conclude with Smith’s latest composition drawing on his love for America’s natural splendor, The Great Lakes. Following in the spirit of his widely-acclaimed America’s National Parks, Smith wrote the piece for his newly-assembled Great Lakes Quartet: himself, saxophonist Jonathan Haffner, bassist John Lindberg, and drummer Thurman Barker.

Sunday’s line-up begins with the U.S. premiere of President Obama's Speech At The Selma Bridge, a suite written for the renowned power-jazz trio Harriet Tubman. Wadada will join the band, which includes bassist Melvin Gibbs (Rollins Band, Sonny Sharrock), guitarist Brandon Ross (Henry Threadgill, Cassandra Wilson), and drummer J.T. Lewis (Whitney Houston, Bill Laswell). The piece recalls Barack Obama’s historic speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” on the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in front of a crowd of 40,000.

The ideals represented by that speech are also beautifully represented in the festival’s final piece, the world premiere of Peace, Love and Liberty: Compassion and Respect For a Tolerant World: A Suite. Performed by Smith’s longstanding Golden Quintet – Wadada, pianist Anthony Davis, cellist Ashley Walters, drummer Pheeroan akLaff, and video artist Jesse Gilbert – the new suite is the composer’s plea for understanding, compassion and tolerance at an incredibly divisive time. As President Obama’s Speech provides a poignant look back at another fraught chapter in our history, Peace, Love and Liberty offers an optimistic and embracing look forward.

Both of Saturday’s premieres as well as the Golden Quintet performance will be supplemented by images provided by video artist Gilbert, who Smith says adds integral visual context to the aural elements. “The music and imagery don’t move in separate streams,” he says. “They’re actually intimately connected and responsible for each other, allowing us to create a narrative that transcends space and time. It’s twofold: there’s a technical and musical connection, and then there’s a psychological and historical connection that helps to provide for comprehension of the work.”

In order to further that comprehension, the Festival will include an exhibition of 20 of Smith’s Ankhrasmation Symbolic Language Scores in a special gallery at Firehouse 12. On Sunday, April 8, Smith will lead a walk-through of the exhibition along with curator Lyn Horton. He will also lead a discussion of his unique compositional approach. Curators and the general public are invited to join.

“For all the minimalism of his sound,” writes Adam Shatz, “Smith has turned out to be a maximalist in his ambitions, evolving into one of our most powerful storytellers, an heir to American chroniclers like Charles Ives and Ornette Coleman.” That ambition will be on prismatic display throughout the CREATE Festival, allowing Smith to weave multiple tales across the sweeping breadth of his formidable imagination.

About Wadada Leo Smith

Trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improviser Wadada Leo Smith is one of the most boldly original and influential artists of his time. Transcending the bounds of genre or idiom, he distinctly defines his music, tirelessly inventive in both sound and approach, as “Creative Music."

For the last five decades, Smith has been a member of the legendary AACM collective, pivotal in its wide-open perspectives on music and art in general. He has carried those all-embracing concepts into his own work, expanding upon them in myriad ways.

Throughout his career, Smith has been recognized for his groundbreaking work. A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, he received the 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and earned an honorary doctorate from CalArts, where he was also celebrated as Faculty Emeritus. In addition, he received the Hammer Museum's 2016 Mohn Award for Career Achievement “honoring brilliance and resilience."

In 2017 Smith topped three categories in DownBeat Magazine’s 65th Annual Critics Poll: Best Jazz Artist, Trumpeter of the Year and Jazz Album of the Year, and was featured as the subject of a cover story in August 2017. The Jazz Journalists Association also honored Smith as their 2017 Musician of the Year as well as 2017 Duo of the Year for his work with Vijay Iyer. The JJA named him their 2016 Trumpeter of the Year, 2015 Composer of the Year, and 2013 Musician of the Year, and he earned top billing in two categories in the JazzTimes 2016 Critics Poll: Artist of the Year and Composer of the Year.

In October 2015 The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago presented the first comprehensive exhibition of Smith's Ankhrasmation scores, which use non-standard visual directions, making them works of art in themselves as well as igniting creative sparks in the musicians who perform them. In 2016, these scores were also featured in exhibitions at the Hammer Museum, and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Kadist in San Francisco.

Born December 18, 1941 in Leland, Mississippi, Smith's early musical life began at age thirteen when he became involved with the Delta blues and jazz traditions performing with his stepfather, bluesman Alex Wallace. He received his formal musical education from the U.S. Military band program (1963), the Sherwood School of Music (1967-69), and Wesleyan University (1975-76).

Smith has released more than 50 albums as a leader on labels including ECM, Moers, Black Saint, Tzadik, Pi Recordings, TUM, Leo and Cuneiform. His diverse discography reveals a recorded history centered around important issues that have impacted his world, exploring the social, natural and political environment of his times with passion and fierce intelligence. His 2016 recording, America’s National Parks earned a place on numerous best of the year lists including the New York Times, NPR Music and many others. Smith’s landmark 2012 civil rights opus Ten Freedom Summers was called “A staggering achievement [that] merits comparison to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme in sobriety and reach.”

CREATE Festival

Saturday, April 7, 2018

7 p.m.

1. Number One – Composed by Lamar Smith – World Premiere
Lamar Smith Ensemble
Lamar Smith, Guitar
Hardedge, Electronics
Thurman Barker, Drums

2. Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Unseen Suite – World Premiere
Kosmic Music Ensemble
Wadada Leo Smith, Trumpet and Composer
Bobby Naughton, Vibraphone
Sylvie Courvoisier, Piano
Lamar Smith, Guitar
Thurman Barker, Drums
Jawara, Jimbe and Percussion

3. The Great Lakes – USA Premiere
Wadada Leo Smith’s Great Lakes Quartet
Wadada Leo Smith, Trumpet and Composer
Jonathan Haffner, Alto and Soprano Saxophone
John Lindberg, Bass
Thurman Barker, Drums
Jesse Gilbert, Video Artist for all performances on April 7

Sunday, April 8, 2018

3 p.m. – Exhibition of Ankrasmation Scores
Walk-through and discussion about exhibit of 20 new art scores in Smith’s Ankhrasmation Gallery.

7 p.m. – Concert
1. President Obama's Speech At The Selma Bridge – USA Premiere
Harriet Tubman performing with special guest Wadada Leo Smith
Brandon Ross, Guitar
Melvin Gibbs, Bass
J.T. Lewis, Drums
Wadada Leo Smith, Trumpet

2. Peace, Love and Liberty: Compassion and Respect For a Tolerant World: A Suite – World Premiere
Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quintet
Wadada Leo Smith, Trumpet and Composer
Anthony Davis, Piano
Ashley Walters, Cello
Pheeroan akLaff, Drums
Jesse Gilbert, Video Artist

CREATE Festival is made possible with generous support from the Doris Duke Foundation in partnership with Creative Capital. Smith received a Doris Duke Artist Award in 2016.

This story appears courtesy of Braithwaite & Katz Communications.
Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.

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