Angelica Sanchez / Wadada Leo Smith
A duo is the most intimate of encounters in jazz – such a tête-à-tête demands rare communication, forcing each player to open up, unable to rely on group interplay. The duo of pianist Angelica Sanchez & trumpet great Wadada Leo Smith is a special relationship, new yet not new. Sanchez has been part of two Smith-led projects, the Golden Quartet and Organic, and their duo relationship arose naturally out of their past encounters. Following several all-improvised concerts together, Sanchez and Smith have created their first album together with Twine Forest, the ravishing result of improvisational communion in the studio. Smith’s tone is like silver – glinting off Sanchez’s chords and lines, glowing in resonance with the strings of the piano. TheLos Angeles Times has said that Smith – who was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize last year – “not only recalls Miles at Davis at his most uncompromising but also builds upon his legacy to the point where such comparisons lose meaning.” And The New York Timeshas said: “In her piano playing and compositions, Angelica Sanchez seeks out the lyrical heartbeat within any avant-garde storm,” while All About Jazz has called her “a perceptive composer and cunning improviser.”
About her partnership with Smith, Sanchez says: “You can really get to know another musician playing in a duo – and it has been an amazing experience with Wadada. I get lost in his sound. He’s acutely sensitive to the piano, playing to the instrument –into it literally sometimes, so that when I leave the sustain pedal down, we get these wonderful vibrations; but also in a larger, cosmic sense with the way he plays to the idea of the piano and what it can do. We get an expansive sound together. He’s also such a master improviser, having developed his own language over the years – this unique voice. When I play with Wadada, he makes me listen differently. He gets deep into the music, and time slows down, so that an hour can feel like five minutes.”
Pianist-composer Angelica Sanchez moved from her native Arizona to New York City in 1994, performing since with the likes of not only Wadada Leo Smith but Paul Motian, Tim Berne, Ralph Alessi, Mario Pavone, Susie Ibarra and Brandon Ross, among many others. Sanchez has released two albums as the leader of an all-star quintet featuring saxophonist Tony Malaby, guitarist Marc Ducret, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey: 2010’s Life Between and 2012’s Wires & Moss (both on Clean Feed). JazzTimes has said: “Sanchez’s provocative writing – full of evocative harmonies and open-ended forms – showcases her flair for counterpoint and marks her as a formidable talent.” In 2011, Sanchez released her first solo album, A Little House (Clean Feed). She debuted on record as a leader with Mirror Me(OmniTone, 2003), featuring her at the head of a quartet with Malaby, Rainey and bassist Michael Formanek. Sanchez co-leads an ongoing trio with Malaby and Rainey; having already released the great two-volume, all-improvised Alive in Brooklyn (featuring her on electric Wurlitzer), the trio has a new album in the works with Sanchez on acoustic piano. Among other collaborations, she performs and records with drummer-composer Harris Eisenstadt and saxophonist Ellery Eskelin as the September Trio, having released the Clean Feed albums September Trio andThe Destructive Element. The Philadelphia City Paperhas said that Sanchez “carries an unforced authority; her virtuosity (not too strong a word) is less solid than fluid, a thing of movement and ease.”
Trumpeter-composer Wadada Leo Smith, born and raised in Leland, Mississippi, started playing trumpet in R&B bands, encouraged by his stepfather, blues guitarist Alex Wallace. By the mid 1960s, he had gravitated to Chicago’s burgeoning avant-garde jazz community where he was part of the first generation of musicians to come out of Chicago’s AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music). Smith formed the Creative Construction Company together with saxophonist Anthony Braxton and violinist Leroy Jenkins. Since the early ’70s, Smith has performed and recorded mainly with his own groups. He currently leads four principal ensembles: Mbira, a trio with pipa player Min Xiao-Fen and drummer Pheeroan akLaff; the Golden Quartet, his highly celebrated group that now includes Anthony Davis, John Lindberg and Pheeroan akLaff; Organic, a larger ensemble consisting primarily of electric string instruments; and the Silver Orchestra, which explores Smith’s music for large ensemble. From solo trumpet to orchestral ensembles, he has released nearly 50 albums via such labels ECM, Moers, Black Saint, Tzadik, Pi Recordings, TUM, Leo, Intakt and Cuneiform. The latter label released his spiritually charged four-CD set Ten Freedom Summersin 2012. Pop Matters called it “an emotional and intellectual luxury, a chance to commune with greatness… the work of a lifetime by one of jazz’s true visionaries,” while theOxford American called it “stirringly beautiful, an outstanding aesthetic achievement.” In 2012, the TUM label releasedAncestors, Smith’s duo album with South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo; in 2013, TUM released Occupy the World, Smith’s double-disc project leading the Finnish TUMO orchestra. Smith has also collaborated closely on record with the likes of Braxton (Organic Resonance), drummer Ed Blackwell (The Blue Mountain’s Sun Drummer) and guitarist Henry Kaiser (the Yo Miles! series of albums exploring the legacy of electric Miles Davis). An esteemed educator and music theorist, Smith has been on faculty since 1993 at the California Institute of the Arts, where he is director of the African-American Improvisational Music Program.