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Wadada Leo Smith


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There are three expensive newish sets from Wadada Leo Smith that intrigue me. 

I think the Chicago Symphonies have been out for several months.  Four CDs, all feature sax, trumpet bass and drums.  Three with Henry Threadgill, and the fourth with Jonathon Haffner.

Emerald Duets is 5 cds with four drummers. Andrew Cyrille, Pheeroan ak Laff, Han Bennink and Jack DeJohnette.

String Quartets 1-12 are on 7 CDs and at least 4 of the quartets feature additional musicians, including Anthony Davis and Wadada himself.

None seem to be streamable, has anyone heard any of them?


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Yeah, these are tough ones to compare, because he's just been on fire in his consistency for a long time now. The Chicago Symphonies has been out for
almost two and a half years and the other two are just under two years old
and they still find themselves being played around here - mostly because
once you get where he's coming from beforehand, you can just nestle
yourself into a comfy position with drink of choice and envelop yourself
in that mix of sound meets understanding (and sometimes awe).
Really looking forward to the album next month about Central Park
with Amina Claudine Myers.

Edited by rostasi
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Also, I'll mention that the String Quartets are a bit slim on "special" performers - even with people like Anthony Davis or Thomas Buckner and you might have to have a hankering for Shostakovich as they sometimes fall over that line at times.

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Big fan of Chicago Symphonies (and the slightly earlier Sacred Ceremonies), the emerald duets I have not played so much yet, the string quartets I have streamed a bit but 7cds seemed a lot 

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on spotify, they are there as seven individual albums - but in the past, what you could stream there in Europe was not necessary the same as what you could stream in the US... I could also stream them all via youtube, again this (the first track) may not be available in the US


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Thanks, Rod and Niko.

A couple of early string quartets are on Youtube, but from a completely different recording:

SQ #1

SQ #3

They sound pretty good, but 7 CDs of quartets in "modernist idiom" is a lot for all but committed enthusiasts. I'll look for more to audition.

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I bought the String Quartets as a leap of faith as much as anything else as I don't ordinarily listen to the format very much at all.

As a big WLS fan I thought why not. They've definitely repaid my listening and give an enlightening perspective on his other writing. Without stating the obvious they sound to me very like WLS music and I'd say any fan of his would find them an interesting listen. There's variation and development across the set although as mentioned above the guests aren't providing a lot of that.

How they compare to others' string quartets I'm not qualified to comment.

I didn't buy 'Emerald Duets' as I already have a lot of WLS in duet but would love to hear the Bennink.

As for ' Chicago Symphonies', I think I'm a bit of an outlier in finding that set a little underwhelming, maybe expectations were too high given the line up.

I'm very excited about the mention of an Amina Claudine Myers collaboration. I'll buy that one.

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