Wadada Leo Smith’s Organic – Heart’s Reflections
(Cuneiform Rune 330/331. CD review by Chris Parker)
Describing his 14-piece band Organic (four guitars, two basses, two laptops, violin, two saxophones, piano and drums, alongside his own electric and acoustic trumpets) to All About Jazz, Wadada Leo Smith identified his aims thus: ‘I wanted to create this ensemble with this fantastic horizontal and vertical mash of sound … and the music to be experimental and have a beat to it and to have those qualities that young people are interested in’.
On this, the band’s second release, two CDs’ worth of music recorded at a New Haven jazz club, Firehouse 12, these aims are abundantly – even extravagantly – realised, the band’s approach, while discernibly rooted in the ‘electric Miles’ music that produced everything from Jack Johnson and Bitches Brew to Agharta and Pangaea, forging a distinctly contemporary sound from a unique mix of seething jazz/rock and electronics.
Smith’s trademark blazing rasps, stuttering rips and smears of sound, skilfully complemented by sustained, spearing notes over drummer Pheeroan akLaff‘s tumblingly emphatic precision and the solid, often downright hypnotic bass playing of John Lindberg and Skúli Sverrisson, will hold strong appeal for all those UK listeners who have latched on to bands such as Dog Soup and Fraud in recent times, but Organic’s pleasantly galumphing solidity, stamina and energy (the album’s final track, the magnificent ‘Leroy Jenkins’s Air Steps’, lasts a mesmerising 22 minutes) are counterbalanced by a judicious deployment of electronics that ranges from ethereal, floating passages harking back to In a Silent Way to unequivocally new-millennium laptop-produced soundscaping.
Like Smith’s superb Yo Miles! (with guitarist Henry Kaiser, Shanachie, 1998; but also recorded on two mid-2000s Cuneiform albums), and his previous Organic album Spiritual Dimensions (Cuneiform, 2009), this latest roilingly intense offering should appeal to rock and cutting-edge jazz enthusiasts alike.