Two Titans of Extreme Jazz Unite, Give Weather Report
Wadada Leo Smith and John Lindberg have collaborated before and here the pair improvise as a duo, something they have done more than a few times on stage over the last three decades, but never in the confines of a studio. Not that you could confine these two. Their spirits and talents are larger than those studio walls and maybe larger than any recordings that might emerge, this one included.
The record opens with Lindberg’s salute to late fellow bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut with a suite that honors the fearless spirit of the man who appeared on dozens of recordings with Art Ensemble of Chicago and even a handful with Smith. Smith and Lindberg both play with an uncommon ability to transcend their instruments, to create poetic passages that move us beyond this realm and into something completely other.
From there, they deliver us unto a kind of weather report with the meditative opening moments of “Cyclone” (which features some of Smith’s most lyrical playing and some of Lindberg’s most beautiful) to the full-on storm of “Hurricane” and the melodic poetry of “Typhoon”. Smith’s lyrical playing is a constant throughout and especially during that track as he takes us deep inside the music on a cathartic journey that is not easily forgotten.
The collaboration really shines, though, on “Feathers and Earth”, which Lindberg wrote specifically for the record and which he apparently completed shortly before the duo took to the studio. It is a composition that soars at times and at other times is harrowing in the twists and turns it takes listeners upon. Part of it stems from an earlier composition titled “Ether” that Lindberg suggests is transformed in this new setting into something utterly new.
No surprise, really, as they two are particularly capable at rendering everything new and so not a moment of this hour-long journey seems wasted or less than on par.
The music is of course one component of a package that also includes extensive liner notes, reflections by both men and long biographical pieces about each of them as well. Although they are separated by nearly two decades between their births, their spirits seem to come from some time before all of that, perhaps from before even recorded time. Certainly Lindberg would be likely to agree as he writes that he feels a kinship with raptors and other creatures of that ilk.
Perhaps their collective sense of adventure might encourage others to take up their instruments and walk a path of greater resistance, upon which the dividends of experimentation and the rewards of artistic merit and freedom are returned to the artist no less than a thousand fold even when the dividends that keep the lights turned on and the mortgage company howling in someone else’s direction might not.
This is music though to sooth the impulses of the modern being who views themselves as something out of time, a Viking who is forced to walk the suburbs, a Visigoth forced to shop at the health food store, a storm that can’t help erupting even when most hope it will not.
"PopMatters is looking for smart music writers. We're looking for talented writers with deep genre knowledge of music and its present and…READ the article