American master trumpeter celebrated on December 18, 2021 his 80th birthday, and, luckily, and still surprises with his unique creativity as «Pacifica Koral Reef» proves. The album documents his meeting with guitarist Henry Kaiser – his partner in the Miles Davis’ electric era tribute band «Yo Miles!», who produced, mixed and mastered this album and thinks of Smith as the favorite and wise uncle that he never had in his own family – and Alex Varty, who is also an arts journalist who also wrote the liner notes for this album. The album was recorded in January 2018 in Santa Cruz and Berkley, California.
«Pacifica Koral Reef» is based on Smith’s open-ended graphic score – a single sheet of paper, inscribed with sinuous lines, bright blocks of spring green and earthy ochre, radiant pools of blue, circuit-board computations, and ancient glyphs. «The score is based on Smith’s Ankhrasmation musical language that combines visual stimulation, musical notation, and social philosophy that prompts intuition, imagination and cooperation. «Ankh», comes from the Egyptian cross. «Ras» comes from the Ethiopian ‘head’, meaning the leader. And «Ma» comes from ‘mother’». Smith explains. «The only requirement is that the artists that are performing it maintain a high level of sincerity». Smith likes to speak about how his heart, his musical language, and his music are all connected to the need to not only survive but thrive under injustice, in America and all over the world, for all men and women and for our planet.
Kaiser and Varty, with Smith’s inspiration and encouragement, transformed this score into a sonic portal that employed vintage guitars and an array of microphones made of purest Soviet unobtanium and imagines a one singular free-improvised musical event that encompasses the sounds of a steamy Chicago nightclub, a Third Stream concert hall, the crystalline world under the Antarctic ice – where Kaiser served as a scientific diver for the past twenty years, and lonely Scottish moor.
The 55-minute title piece is one of the most intimate compositions in Smith’s magnificent discography, and certainly in Kaiser’s rich discography. The music flows organically between a few phases: sparse folk and blues Americana, exotic and abstract ambient, chamber yet often provocative and thorny free jazz, but always manage to knit these distinct threads into a coherent texture. Smith plays his first notes only in the 11th minute but each note of him sounds as shining the contemplative dynamics with poetic, imaginative ideas and at the same time reflecting and enriching the patient interplay with otherworldly nuances as if He was a spiritual shaman who conducts a magical ritual.
«Pacifica Koral Reef» is one of the rare free improvised meetings that suggest that the musicians and the listeners become part of a larger whole, connected by collective awareness that embraces life’s risks, beauties and fragility.
Wadada Leo Smith (tp), Henry Kaiser (g), Alex Varty (g)