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Wadada Leo Smith and John Lindberg in six Midwest performances

Composer, trumpeter, and musical visionary Wadada Leo Smith and acclaimed bassist/composer John Lindberg bring their powerful duo to four Midwestern cities this fall. Smith was recently called a “national treasure” in DownBeat Magazine’s November 2016 cover story. The duo’s recent recording Celestial Weather was heralded by Nate Chinen in the New York Times for its “measured and deeply responsive” playing. They perform:

• Sunday, October 23, 3 p.m. at LaFontsee Galleries, 833 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI.

• Monday, October 24, 6:30 p.m. at Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Auditorium, 314 S. Park St., Kalamazoo, MI. Pre-concert talk by Smith at 5:30 p.m. in the galleries, where the exhibit Ankrasmation: The Language of Scores may be viewed.

• Wednesday, October 26, 9 p.m. at Edgefest, Kerrytown Concert House, 415 N. 4th Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI. Tickets $15, students $5. For information visit

• Friday and Saturday, October 28-29, 8:30 p.m. at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL

Joining Smith and Lindberg is drummer Mike Reed. Tickets $20. For information visit

• Sunday, October 30, 7 p.m. at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 East Locust St., Milwaukee, WI. $8, $7 students, $6 members.

Celestial Weather, named as one of the top 50 jazz albums of the year in the 2015 WBUR Jazz Critics Poll, marks the first recording focusing on the duo’s original compositions and open improvisations. As Michael Ullman wrote in ArtsFuse: “Smith is a master at manipulating and dramatizing sonic spaces, especially within the confines of a duet.” In The Absolute Sound, critic Derk Richardson notes: “While their instruments could hardly sound more different—the mercurial brassiness and sputtering of Smith’s horn and the sonorous snapping, throbbing, and groaning of Lindberg’s double bass—they virtually become one as they bob, weave, and grapple.”

Smith and Lindberg first played together in Anthony Braxton’s Creative Music Orchestra in 1978, and started performing as a duo in 1990. Smith and Lindberg demonstrate their closeness and deep understanding of each other’s music by their instant reactions and constant dialogue that elevate them to the very top tier of improvising composers performing as a duo today.

Wadada Leo Smith, whose roots are in the Delta blues, is one of the most boldly original figures in American jazz and creative contemporary music and one of the great trumpet players of our time. As a composer, improviser, performer, music theorist/writer and educator, Smith has devoted a lifetime to navigating the emotional heart, spiritual soul, social significance and physical structure of jazz to create new music of infinite possibility and nuance.

Smith, who turns 75 in December 2016, recently received a 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and an honorary doctorate from CalArts, where he was honored as Faculty Emeritus. He is also the recipient of the 2016 Mohn Award for Career Achievement “honoring brilliance and resilience” and was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music. In 2014 DownBeat magazine named him “One of the 80 Coolest Things in Jazz Today,” citing his “magisterial instrumental voice, his inspirational leadership, and his command of classical, jazz and blues forms to remind us of what’s gone down and what’s still happening.” The Jazz Journalists Association named Smith Composer of the Year in 2015. Early in his career, Smith developed Ankhrasmation, a radically original musical language that uses visual directions and remains the philosophical foundation of his oeuvre. In October 2015, The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago presented the first comprehensive exhibition of his Ankhrasmation scores and the scores were also exhibited at LA’s Hammer Museum in 2016.

Smith has released more than 50 albums as a leader. His landmark 2012 civil rights opus Ten Freedom Summers was called “A staggering achievement… It merits comparison to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme in sobriety and reach,” (Francis Davis, Rhapsody Jazz Critics Poll). His 2014 recording The Great Lakes Suites earned second place in NPR Music’s 2014 Jazz Critics Poll. In March 2016 ECM released a cosmic rhythm with each stroke featuring pianist Vijay Iyer and Smith, whom Iyer calls his “hero, friend and mentor.” The duo is touring internationally in 2016 and 2017.

This fall, Cuneiform Records will release America’s National Parks, a six-movement suite inspired by the scenic splendor, historic legacy, and political controversies of the country’s public landscapes. The recording features Smith with pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, drummer Pheeroan akLaff and cellist Ashley Walters. Later this year TUM Records will release Wadada Leo Smith: Nagwa featuring Smith with guitarists Michael Gregory Jackson, Henry Kaiser, Brandon Ross and Lamar Smith, plus Bill Laswell on electric bass, Pheeroan akLaff on drums and Adam Rudolph on percussion. Coming on TUM in early 2017 will be Alone: Reflections and Meditations on Monk, a solo recording.

Born December 18, 1941 in Leland, Mississippi, Smith began performing at age thirteen with his stepfather, bluesman Alex Wallace and went on to play in his high school bands. He received his formal musical education from the U.S. Military band program (1963), the Sherwood School of Music (1967-69), and Wesleyan University (1975-76). Part of the first generation of musicians to come out of Chicago’s AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music), Smith collaborated with a dazzling cast of fellow visionaries. He has received commissions to write music for numerous groups including the Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and was invited to perform and speak on human rights at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens.

Smith has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, the Hammer Museum’s Mohn Award, Chamber Music America with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Meet the Composer/Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Commissioning Program, the MAP Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts, among many others.

John Lindberg commenced his full-time professional career at age sixteen, allowing for total immersion into his work as a performer/composer. He was subsequently mentored by the late, great bassist David Izenzon. The first public performances of his ensemble compositions began in 1975, and in 1979 he recorded his first album focused on his original music, a collection of works for solo double bass, Comin’ & Goin’.

Over the last 41 years, he has traveled the globe performing thousands of concerts of creative music, in 36 countries on five continents. He has released myriad albums—over one hundred—that spotlight his original compositions and feature his singularly identifiable bass playing.

His extended works for chamber ensembles combined with improvising artists have been widely commissioned, including works for the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, New York Chamber Ensemble, and Neus Kolner Streichquartett. His catalogue contains over one hundred and fifty published works.

He is renowned as an ensemble leader, a collaborator in special duet settings, a solo double bass performer, and as co-founder of the String Trio of New York with Billy Bang and James Emery. He has worked with a plethora of luminary creative artists, including: Albert Mangelsdorff, Ed Thigpen, Eric Watson, Louis Sclavis, Wadada Leo Smith, Susie Ibarra, Karl Berger, Anthony Braxton, John Carter, Henry Threadgill, Jack DeJohnette, Regina Carter, Jimmy Lyons, Sunny Murray, Roswell Rudd, Mary Redhouse, Pablo Calogero, Joe LaBarbera, Wendell Harrison, and Kevin Norton.

His work as a producer of numerous recordings, and of powerful cross-genre projects—such as JazzHopRevolution and BLOB—is well established, as is his ongoing work as an educator with a distinctly unique message.

Awards and fellowships in support of his work include those from New Music USA, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, Chamber Music America, ASCAP, Arts International, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Cary Charitable Trust, New York State Council on the Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Meet the Composer, and a Diploma de Honor from Gobernacion Cordillera, Chile.

Of late, John’s disparate extra-musical activities, which include a stint as a community rescue squad ambulance driver, serving as general contractor for a cabin built with carpenter friends in South Dakota, and being engaged as an observational naturalist—have significantly informed his work as a composer and musician. His most recent recordings that feature his compositions are the duet with Wadada Leo Smith, Celestial Weather, the duet with cellist Anil Eraslan, Juggling Kukla (released as a limited edition of 300 vinyl LPs), and John Lindberg’s TriPolar [a]live at Roulette, NYC. Scheduled for a September 21, 2016 release date on Clean Feed Records are two new albums: John Lindberg BC3, Born in an Urban Ruin and John Lindberg Raptor Trio, Western Edges.

John Lindberg & Wadada Leo Smith: Celestial Weather Midwest Duets was supported by New Music USA, through a generous contribution from Joseph A. and Nancy Meli Walker. To follow the project as it unfolds, visit


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