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RH1005

 

Conservatory Gardens

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

Central Park at Sunset

 

When Was

 

The Harlem Meer

 

Albert Ayler, a meditation in light

 

Imagine, a mosaic for John Lennon

9:02

 

1:52

 

5:17

 

5:33

 

3:07

 

6:30

 

5:07

Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet

Amina Claudine Myers: piano / Hammond B3

'Central Park’s Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens', a remarkable convergence of two kindred musical spirits - trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith and newly minted NEA Jazz Master pianist and organist Amina Claudine Myers. This extraordinary collaboration marks the master musicians’ first recorded collaboration, and their first involvement since their early years as key members of the iconic Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Central Park serves as a testament to the enduring power of artistic connection and the evolution of musical mastery.

 

On 'Central Park', the duo paint scenes and conjure landscapes with the musical sound fields created by Smith’s supple horn and Myers’ fervent piano and organ. With pieces deriving inspiration from Central Park’s many natural splendors, the album strikes tones of wistfulness, longing, awe, discord and peace. 'Central Park' has a considered quality, a slowness that both gives it depth and is evidence of the gravity of its makers. The album is marked by the convergence of two iconic sounds and an intentionality of texture created between their two instruments and the sonority fully encompassed by their individual musical refrains, and the space between. 

 

Left to their own devices, Smith and Myers, both hailing from the South before finding their artistic homes in Chicago, discovered a profound gravitational pull drawing them back together. Their shared history as key first-wave members of the AACM laid the groundwork for a friendship and creative partnership that spans over half a century. The AACM is a pioneering collective of musicians dedicated to the promotion and advancement of creative improvisation and experimental music. Founded in Chicago in the 1960s, the organization has served as a catalyst for innovation and collaboration within the jazz and avant-garde music communities.

 

Myers, who famously appeared in the second AACM concert, with Philip Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble at the South Shore Ballroom in 1966, preceded Smith by a year or so.  While he was studying at the Sherwood Music School at the Fine Arts Building in the Loop, Smith became active in the AACM, where he grew into one of its most important philosophers and composers; like many AACMers, he spent a period in Europe before moving to Connecticut and California, sharing his own version of concepts germinated in the AACM.  

 

In 2015, nearly fifty years after their initial encounter, Smith penned the poignant composition "Amina Claudine Myers" as a tribute to his esteemed colleague, and recorded the composition with his Great Lakes Quartet and as a solo trumpet piece. Smith’s homage to his fellow AACM member and musical counterpart, Myers, sets the stage for the mesmerizing journey that unfolds in Central Park.

 

The album emanates a deliberate, contemplative quality, inviting listeners to immerse themselves in its rich sonic tapestry. Myers' masterful piano work, showcased prominently throughout the album, guides the listener through a series of elegant, introspective episodes, each imbued with a sense of profound depth and emotional resonance. Smith's trumpet, with its radiant tones and illuminating presence, serves as a beacon of hope and upliftment. 

 

As 'Central Park' unfolds, it becomes evident that Smith and Myers possess an unparalleled capacity for connection and expression. Their collaborative effort serves as a master class in inventive exchange, offering listeners a glimpse into the boundless potential of artistic partnership. From Myers’ opening notes on “Conservatory Gardens,” in which she gradually spells out harmonic terrain, the program unfolds as a series of elegant, sometimes elegiac, episodes. A tributary of trust. A delta of decisiveness. A slow-moving stream of sensitivity. 

 

The album continues with 'Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir', with a regal quality, Myers on the B3 organ, and Smith with a muted trumpet - the duo pays their homage to the central defining landmark of Central Park, it’s main body of water. A perfect complement, on the solo piano piece 'When Was', penned by Myers, Myers shows her nimble-fingered jubilance, also in her cool organ sound, as buoyant as a life raft, keeping listeners safely above turbulent water.

 

'The Harlem Meer' strikes a relaxed chord with wistful undertones - reflecting the body of water in the northeast corner of Central Park - a place for relaxation and reflection where park-dwellers can often be found observing wildlife, picnicking and fishing. The album's closing tributes to Albert Ayler and John Lennon further underscore the artists' commitment to peace and social justice, infusing the music with a transcendent sense of purpose.

 

In a world where connections often fray and fade, 'Central Park’s Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens' stands as a testament to the enduring power of musical kinship. Through their shared journey, Wadada Leo Smith and Amina Claudine Myers invite listeners to rediscover the beauty of human connection and the transformative power of creative expression.

 

This is the latest release from the adventurous Red Hook Records, which was founded in 2020 by Sun Chung after a decade-long tenure at ECM. "It was a rare privilege to be able to work with these two masters. Even more so as the results are stunning. The music on this album reaches depths only attainable through a lifetime of dedication to the arts,” he reflects. This album follows the critically-acclaimed trio record Refract, by BlankFor.ms, Jason Moran and Marcus Gilmore, and Two Centuries, the first Red Hook collaboration with Wadada Leo Smith, which featured Qasim Naqvi and Andrew Cyrille.

Recorded: November 8 & 9, 2021

Sear Sound, New York

Engineer: Joseph Branciforte

Mastering: Alex Bonney

Cover Art: Laura Arteaga Charlton

Photos: Arianna Tae Cimarosti, Luke Marantz
Design: Matthew Appleton

 

Produced by Sun Chung

"As slow-moving as ripples on a lake occasionally spooked by sharp breezes, as inviting to contemplation as a long gaze at a beguiling artwork, this is a collection of reverentially personal but never remote or cloistered pieces."

John Fordham - The Guardian (Jazz Album of the Month)

"The trumpeter and pianist conjure an intimate vibe in a recording of slowly unfolding pleasures."

Mike Hobart - Financial Times

 

"Smith, on the cusp of 80 at the time of this recording, brings poignancy as well as ironclad technique to a stately exploration of his theme. Myers, patient and probing, conveys both radiant beauty and a deepening shade of crepuscular darkness."

Nate Chinen - The Gig

"An elegy to the verdant rectangle hemmed in by the high-rise mayhem of Manhattan, this is full of playing so poignant that it’ll make your chest ache."

 Ben Beaumont-Thomas - The Guardian (The Best Albums of 2024)

“…this is an album of immersive and expressive feeling, showcasing two late-career masters who still wield immense power.”

Ammar Kalia - Downbeat

"The album represents a remarkable fusion of two kindred musical spirits and testifies to the transformative power of creative expression."

Jazziz

"Sacred music for what many consider a very sacred place." 

Mike Jurkovic - All About Jazz

"Spare and gorgeous..."

Fred Cisterna - Qobuz

"Un album de contemplation extatique..."

FIP - Radio France

"It is a superb album from start to finish."

Karl Ackermann - All About Jazz

"Duo albums - when they land right - can be as weighty as the manifestation of any big band. Notes ring in the air, but there is a nakedness that no massive firepower or sheer numbers can ever match."
Stephen Graham - Marlbank

"Dear lord, this album is stunning."

Brett Callwood - Music Connection Magazine

"This is a light-emitting album to be revisited many times in the future."

Jazz Trail

"A depth of gravitas fills the air with a subtle beauty."

Mike Gates - UK Vibe

"Listening to the duo of these two exceptional artists is an extraordinary experience." 

Jacek Brun - Jazz-Fun

"The listener is enraptured and held in a mesmerized state..."

Jim Hynes - Making a Scene

"Disco assolutamente imperdibile."

Sandro Cerini - Musica Jazz

 

"…ricco di pathos e pudore, lucidità ed elegenza, concentrazione e solennità."

Alberto Bazzurro - Musica Jazz

"I was hypnotized by the beauty; entranced and vulnerable."

Dee Dee McNeil - Musical Memoirs

"Their mastery creates an experience where the listener is drawn deeper and deeper into verdant soundscapes..."

Bill Shoemaker - Point of Departure

"A sumptuous offering from two masters."

Kevin Le Gendre - Jazzwise (Editor's Choice)

"The tone is stately and almost elegiac throughout, as if a grand, seismic, and vaguely frightening event is taking place on a glacial timescale."

Daniel Bromfield - Pitchfork

“'Central Park' a une qualité contemplative, une lenteur, qui lui donne de la profondeur et témoigne de la gravité de ses auteurs."

Alex Dutilh - France Musique

"...this album really feels like two lifelong friends singing love songs to each other."

Phil Freeman - Stereogum

"Ce merveilleux duo d'artisans-denteliers brodent une élégante musique élégiaque pour évoquer le parc."

Paul Jaillet - Jazz Magazine

"Framing their pieces around facets of New York’s Central Park, the duo all but lifts you up and shepherds you along its paths."

Dave Sumner - Bandcamp

"This, from two of the elders, is a very special one."

Richard Williams - The Blue Moment

"A wondrous trumpet-piano paean to nature."

Fred Kaplan - Tracking Angle

"If you have the soul of an art adventurer, if for you a poem is a source of happiness, if you’re the type to stroll along the sea in winter and let yourself be pierced, then you will find that this album is not only 'indispensable' but also destined to become a reference that will be talked about for decades to come."

Thierry De Clemensat - Paris Move

"This late contribution, from two players who bring lifetimes of experience to bear on simple materials to work up some marvellous joint creations, uses space and silence with rare skill..."

Jon Turney - London Jazz News

"Questa registrazione arriva come una sorta di miracolo..."

Giuseppe Segala - All About Jazz Italy (Album of the Week)

"Vieles klingt wie ein Gebet, wie ein Dialog mit dem Universum und dessen Mächten. Obwohl in einem regulären Studio aufgenommen, bauen die bei- den eine Kathedrale um sich auf."

Wolf Kampmann - Jazz Thing 

"A soul-cleansing collaboration fifty years in the making from these AACM-members."

Barney Whittaker - Presto Music

"The music is serene, not a note too much..."

Ohrenschmauch

"One of the most beautiful albums from trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith in years."

Dusty Grooves

" 'Central Park’s Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths, and Gardens', is breathtakingly beautiful. It is just plain delicacy, yet heavily and meaningfully charged, in a way that only master musicians can unfold."

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