Wadada Leo Smith's large ensemble Organic made their first appearance on the second disc of his 2009 double CD, Spiritual Dimensions; this, though, is the group's first set of studio recordings. In the late '90s and early 2000s, Smith co-led the band Yo Miles! with guitarist Henry Kaiser, reinterpreting (and later writing original music inspired by) the 1970s work of Miles Davis' guitar-heavy electric funk bands. Organic's music is superficially similar to that band's, but with a much greater degree of abstraction (in addition to Smith's trumpet, two saxophones, and up to four electric guitarists, the ensemble features one upright and one electric bassist, a violinist, and two members performing on laptops) and a generally more meditative feel that's likely rooted in the leader's deep and constant spiritual questing. Tracks carry dedications to Don Cherry and Smith's AACM peer, violinist Leroy Jenkins, as well as Toni Morrison and Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili, the founder of the Shadhili order of Sufi Muslims who died in 1258. So while the opening "Don Cherry's Electric Sonic Garden" is a 20-minute funk jam, the two-part "The Dhikr of Radiant Hearts" feels more like Davis' "He Loved Him Madly" crossed with John Coltrane's "Love Consequences Serenity" from Meditations. The balance between groove and gentle exploration is retained throughout both discs of this nearly two-hour set, and while listening to it as a marathon session may be challenging, there's not a moment here that feels ill-conceived or superfluous. This is a masterwork by one of the great heroes of American avant-garde jazz.
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AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2