Despite being a well-recognized star among a dedicated audience as well as among critics, he is somewhat less known in these latitudes. One of the reasons may be that he has rarely played in concerts in the northern parts of Europe. When he finally comes to Norway at MoldeJazz, it will hopefully not only lead to a memorable concert experience, but also a renewed interest in Leo Smith and his unique music, and a prospect for more concerts with him in the near future.
Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith has a background in the leading organization AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) based in Chicago.Here he met several of his most important early collaborators, Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams, who both participated in the Creative Construction Company with Leo Smith in 1971. He has since played with several contemporary prominent musicians such as Henry Threadgill, Oliver Lake, Marion Brown, Roscoe Mitchell and Peter Kowald on their own as well as a part of someone else's group.
Leo Smith's music is often associated with terms such as avant-garde and free jazz, although he himself has expressed skepticism about the use of the latter label. The music he composes and performs in different bands has always been varied, from the frantic and intense to the contemplative and exploratory, and it moves structurally and rhythmically from the vibrant to the more fluid or even airy. Leo Smith plays energetic funk and rock-influenced jazz with the band Organic, but also appears often in intimate duo settings, most recently at A Cosmis Rhtyhm With Each Stroke(ECM) together with pianist, and his former disciple, Vijay Iyer. In other projects we find him in deep and meticulous acoustic interaction, as in the Great Lakes Suites 2014, a recording made ??with legends Henry Threadgill and Jack DeJohnette.
Golden Quartet, the band Leo Smith brings with him to MoldeJazz, is among the trumpeter's longest running projects. DeJohnette was included in the first version of the band along with Malachi Favors, known from the Art Ensemble of Chicago, as well as pianist Anthony Davis who has been Smith's constant companion. Bassist John Lindberg has also worked together with Leo Smith for several years. Behind the drums we find brilliant Pheeroan AkLaff, renowned for his fluent play with previously mentioned Threadgill, as well as Julius Hemphill, Reggie Workman and Sonny Sharrock. The music of Golden Quartet is often inspired by people and events from the Civil Rights Movement's in the United States, with captivating music performed in intricate interplay among four musicians of the very highest level.