Wadada Leo Smith

Divine Love

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Leo Smith refused the advances of the ECM label for a few years, but eventually created this album for them and continued to record with them sporadically. His working group of the time is largely featured, along with a piece for three trumpets that puts him in the company of both Lester Bowie and Kenny Wheeler. His scores from this time were very well-thought-out and demanded a special type of concentration from the performers, moving into areas quite different than the usual intensity build-up of free jazz or the theme-improvise-theme standards of much that came before. Whether his intentions are best served by the likes of Bowie and Wheeler -- both working in an area that might not be their forte -- was a decision that didn't seem to bother the production staff, and the results are at the very least a memorable meeting of three brass masters. The presence of vibraphonist Bobby Naughton was typical of this period, heralding a new layer of lyricism and romantic beauty in Smith's music, which one would think would be perfectly suited to the ECM treatment. That sympathetic connection was never quite made, however, as the producer was probably busy finding the ultimate reverb setting for Smith's horn.

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