Firehouse 12  45 Crown Street  New Haven, CT 06510  203.785.0468

Wadada Leo Smith

compositions, trumpet

Performer's Website

WADADA LEO SMITH, trumpet-player, multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser has been active in the creative contemporary world music for forty years. His theory of Jazz and World music was significant in his music development as an artist and educator.

Born in Leland, Mississippi, Smith's early musical life began in the high school concert and marching bands. At the age of thirteen, he became immersed within the Delta Blues and Improvisation music traditions. He received his formal musical education with his father, the U.S. Military band program (1963), Sherwood School of Music (1967-69), and Wesleyan University (1975-76).

"My first musical reflection began at 12 years of age. I was concerned with who was a composer and what they did. Through research I discovered that "composers compose music." I had composed my first compositions, so my conclusion was that I was a composer. A year later I began to perform with delta blues bands in nightclubs and other venues, and was active throughout the South and Midwestern America."

As an Improviser-Composer, Smith has studied a variety of music cultures (African, Japanese, Indonesian, European and American) and has developed a Jazz and world music theory, and a notation system to fully express this music, which he calls "Ankhrasmation".

"Through musical reflections I realized that music had a philosophical, theoretical and practical usage in the construction of art objects; and that the creative musical languages consist of compositional forms (known musical elements) and improvisational forms (unknown musical elements). The composition and improvisation are constructed through musical activities and the very special inspired musical moments that the artist/composer/performer wishes to reveal. For fifty years my research and artistic development has been to create a notational language and design compatible systems to illustrate my artistic expression. In the performance context the ensemble provides the key evidence for the success of the piece and determines the quality of the composition/ improvisation experience, which also confirms my research. Since 1967 my compositions, improvisations and Ankhrasmation language for improvisers, all employ the rhythm-units, sound-units, improvisation-units, and symbolic-units systems in music performance.

For example, the rhythm-unit concept is one that accepts a single sound or rhythm, a series of rhythm-sounds, or a grouping of more than one series of sound rhythm as a complete piece of music. The value given to an audible unit is always followed by the relative equivalence of silence. My compositions "Divine Love" (1977, ECM Records) and "Luminous Axis" (2002, Tzadik) are good representations of the rhythm-unit concept. In my Ankhrasmation language for improvisers all the elements are scored and controlled through symbolic notation. For example, these symbols are depicted on sonic staffs with adjustable sound partials. Since this system was designed, all of the music I have worked on has dealt with the philosophical and technical attitude upon which it is based. "Tastalun" (appears on 'Divine Love', 1977/ECM Records) is an Ankhrasmation piece scored for three muted trumpets, and is a good example of this music language."

He has taught at the University of New Haven 1975-'76, the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY. 1975-78, and Bard College 1987-'93. He is currently a professor of Music at the California Institute of the Arts, and is the director of the MFA program in African American Improvisation. He is a member of Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Firehouse 12 Performances

Wadada Leo Smith - CREATE Festival - Concert Two Sunday, April 9, 2017, 7:00p
Wadada Leo Smith - CREATE Festival - Seminar Two Sunday, April 9, 2017, 1:00p
Wadada Leo Smith - CREATE Festival - Concert One Saturday, April 8, 2017, 7:00p
Wadada Leo Smith - CREATE Festival - Seminar One Saturday, April 8, 2017, 1:00p
Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet Friday, September 17, 2010, 10:00p
Wadada Leo Smith's Organic Resonance Friday, April 17, 2009, 10:00p

Return to Performer List
45 Crown Street / New Haven, CT 06510 / 203-785-0468 © Copyright 2017 Firehouse12. All rights reserved