Wadada Leo Smith’s Ten Freedom Summers WLS’s Golden Quartet and Pacifica Red Coral with video artist Jesse Gilbert
Mississippi native, trumpeter, and composer Wadada Leo Smith, a key early member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, completed a monumental piece of work in 2011, an elaborate triadic collection of compositions he calls Ten Freedom Summers. He began work on the endeavor back in 1977 with “Medgar Evers: A Love-Voice of a Thousand Years’ Journey for Liberty and Justice,” composed for violinist Leroy Jenkins. Each subsequent section was composed to reflect the challenges, achievements, and brutal struggles of specific chapters of the civil right s movement between 1954-1964. Last year on the heels of a remarkable 4-CD recording of the work, Ten Freedom Summers was named as a finalist in the Pulitzer Prize for music.
The powerful music avoids easy categorization. In fact, much of it is fully composed, yet Smith’s resourceful collaborators imbue every note and rhythm with individuality. The compositions don’t explicitly feel programmatic, but Smith’s writing absolutely draws ideas from the era he’s writing about. As Ben Ratliff of the New York Times wrote in a performance review earlier this year, “It was helpful to learn after the fact, for example, that the unison patterns in the piece ‘John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier and the Space Age’ are meant to conjure an image of Kennedy’s body being transported to the Capitol rotunda in the funeral procession.” The trumpeter leads his Golden Quartet (pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, and drummer Pheeroan akLaff) and the string ensemble Pacifica Red Coral (violinists Shalini Vijayan and Mona Tian, violist Andrew McIntosh, cellist Ashley Waters, and harpist Alison Bjorkedal). The musicians will be accompanied by video artist Jesse Gilbert. The ensemble will perform five of the nineteen parts from Ten Freedom Summers