Wadada Leo Smith – Red Hill (4 stars)

*1Red Hill

Great trumpeter leads younger improvisers to create tunning modern jazz sound


Red Hill finds the great trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith leading an expedition of younger improvisers across volcanic landscapes and lunar surfaces. This is a highly charged group, animated by Balasz Pandi's restless flurries across the kit. Busy, without over-dominating, Pandi's drum parts create feverish rhythmic textures underneath Jamie Saft's vigorous Cecil Taylor-like piano and Joe Morris's roiling bass. The sage-like Smith cuts through it all with gleaming jewels of thought: long muted notes and tight, concentrated runs which are rich in texture and harmonic detail. On the opening 'Gneiss', Smith's trumpet slices through igneous rock, unleashing the fury of a dormant volcano. The muted trumpet and electric piano of 'Agpaitic' resituates the ambient dirge of Miles Davis's classic 'He Loved Him Madly' to the arctic tundra, while 'Debts of Honour' reveals a world of microscopic activity beneath the uneasy stillness of its surface.

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