Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith inspire at Wigmore Hall

VijayIyerWadadaLeoSmith MG 2697-2

Listening to Wadada Leo Smith and Vijay Iyer in conversation at Wigmore Hall was as inspiring as watching them play. Their pre-concert talk, hosted by Kevin LeGendre, was insightful and frequently profound, touching on physics, mysticism and magic. There were stories – Smith's account of the time two undercover police officers infiltrated and performed with the AACM – thoughts about toying with expectation as a means of creating tension, on the performance space as ritualised and meditative, and on performance itself: "When we step on the stage we destroy the memory that we exist. You forget that you are alive. You have no fear of death," stated Smith.

Iyer discussed the line drawings of Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi, to whom a cosmic rhythm with each stroke (a typically poetic phrase taken from one of Mohamedi's diaries) is dedicated. He mused on their use of repetition ("not obsessive, but very directed") and on the patterns and the rhythm that emerges from it. They have a "meditative quality" and yet they also offer us "a glimpse of the infinite".

Smith also gave advice to a first year jazz student in the audience:

1. Forget about defining yourself as jazz. Jazz doesn't exist. It never existed.
2. Forget what other people think about the way you sound.
3. Imagine everything is possible for you.

And together they elaborated on the approach they take as a duo – using the piano as a sounding board for the trumpet and listening to the resonant properties of every room they play in, allowing it to influence the direction of the performance.

I enjoyed a cosmic rhythm (ECM, 2016) on disc, but I don't feel as though I fully understood what the duo were trying to say. Live, and in light of the talk, it all made sense. The connection with Mohamedi and the distinctiveness of the project were both obvious.

VijayIyerWadadaLeoSmith MG 2741-1

They played continuously for just over an hour, finishing with two shorter pieces. Smith dressed all in white, leaning back and bending double, breaking notes against the floorboards before leaping into his upper register, as if catching a thermal. Iyer on piano, Fender Rhodes and electronics taking care of the meditative repetition and using his set-up both as a sounding board and an amplifier for Smith's trumpet – letting notes sing in the piano strings; triggering looping electronic glissandi that mirrored the trumpeter's flights; and allowing stabs to explode across the keyboard, scattering like handfuls of broken glass.

There were passages of bracing dissonance. Smith's muted opening salvo, sustained for upwards of 10 minutes, was so keening and discordant it felt as though he were driving the point of a knife between the bones in your ear. The resolution was blissful when it arrived, the purity of his sound and the tenderness of his attack almost shocking.

Another highlight came when Iyer took the lead, with an inexorable, writhing piano figure. Then Smith's exclamations sounded weary, as if he were pleading with the pianist to stop – to slow down. He broke off for a moment before redoubling his efforts and soaring to the top of his range. Offering us a glimpse of the infinite.

– Thomas Rees
– Photo by Roger Thomas 

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio launch Moon Palace album with 'L and D' video

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio launch Moon Palace…

Fast emerging saxophonist Helena Kay is set to release her...

Read More.....
Ben LaMar Gay Breaks Back Of Chicagoan Post-Jazz With Melancholic OTO Matinee

Ben LaMar Gay Breaks Back Of Chicagoan P…

A wet afternoon in the 'Big Smoke' is brightened by...

Read More.....
Shepp Sharp, Fiery and Free at Enjoy Fest

Shepp Sharp, Fiery and Free at Enjoy Fes…

The Enjoy Jazz festival is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary...

Read More.....
Baker On A Roll As Her Eden Project Pays Tribute To Ed Blackwell At Brunswick

Baker On A Roll As Her Eden Project Pays…

  Lorraine Baker recorded one of the season's freshest sounding releases...

Read More.....
Freestage Stars Ready To Fire Up EFG London Jazz Festival

Freestage Stars Ready To Fire Up EFG Lon…

With the full programme confirmed for this year's EFG London...

Read More.....
Sons of Kemet: Kinetic and Chaotic at Komedia

Sons of Kemet: Kinetic and Chaotic at Ko…

There is already a sense of excitement in the air...

Read More.....
Henri Texier, Denys Baptiste, Ghost Note and AEC heat up 37th Tampere Jazz Happening

Henri Texier, Denys Baptiste, Ghost Note…

The 37th edition of what is a key date on...

Read More.....
Dave Holland's Aziza Up The Ante At Ronnie's

Dave Holland's Aziza Up The Ante At Ronn…

The old joke that the audience will have a chance...

Read More.....
Art Ensemble and Mary Halvorson among the hair-raising turns at Berlin Fest humdinger

Art Ensemble and Mary Halvorson among th…

The English music critic Richard Williams finished his three-year stint...

Read More.....
A Melting Pot Of Sounds – Pelin Opcin talks about the EFG London Jazz Festival

A Melting Pot Of Sounds – Pelin Opcin ta…

Alyn Shipton spoke to Pelin Opcin, the EFG London Jazz...

Read More.....
Roy Hargrove – 16/10/69 – 2/11/18

Roy Hargrove – 16/10/69 – 2/11/18

Although several of his legendary predecessors met their maker while...

Read More.....
Victor Wooten puts the bass on top at Ronnie Scott’s

Victor Wooten puts the bass on top at Ro…

No one really noticed the quiet, contemplative figure who was...

Read More.....
Love Supreme Jazz Festival launches new monthly music series

Love Supreme Jazz Festival launches new …

With the first names still be announced for the 2019...

Read More.....
Alexander Hawkins heads up Emulsion Fest Part VII

Alexander Hawkins heads up Emulsion Fest…

The seventh installment of the genre-busting Emulsion Festival is set...

Read More.....
Shirley Tetteh, Denys Baptiste and Ian Shaw among Parliamentary Jazz Award winners

Shirley Tetteh, Denys Baptiste and Ian S…

The winners of the 14th annual Parliamentary Jazz Awards took...

Read More.....
Omar Puente and Steam Down Collective for Albany

Omar Puente and Steam Down Collective fo…

South London's longstanding music and arts venue, The Albany, has...

Read More.....
Up From The Vaults: Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet Albums Back on Vinyl

Up From The Vaults: Don Rendell/Ian Carr…

Long regarded as among the most notable and, in recent...

Read More.....
Georgia Mancio's triumphant triple bill at second Pizza Hang

Georgia Mancio's triumphant triple bill …

It's been something of an annus mirabilis for the vocalist...

Read More.....
Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings, The Necks and Ambrose Akinmusire make moves at Mondriaan Jazz Fest

Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings, The …

The second edition of the Mondriaan Jazz Festival takes place...

Read More.....
Black Top boogie on down for Sardinian Extravaganza

Black Top boogie on down for Sardinian E…

This exciting initiative taken by London-based vocalist Filomena Campus is...

Read More.....
UK Seers Foresee Future Homegrown Visions At Jazz In The Round's Emergence Fest

UK Seers Foresee Future Homegrown Vision…

Jazz In The Round promoters Chris Phillips and Jez Nelson...

Read More.....
Julian Siegel and Renegade Brass light up Limerick Jazz Festival

Julian Siegel and Renegade Brass light u…

This year's festival was perhaps short on surprises, compared to...

Read More.....
Dayes Of Future Past As Yussef Dazzles At Brighton's Haunt

Dayes Of Future Past As Yussef Dazzles A…

The bouncer outside is busy checking ID and handing out...

Read More.....
Gobbling Gourmet On Finnish Baltic Sea Jazz Cruise

Gobbling Gourmet On Finnish Baltic Sea J…

Most jazz cruises skim through moist Caribbean parts, proffering smooth...

Read More.....
New York group SUM premiere ‘Sinking Sand’ video

New York group SUM premiere ‘Sinking San…

Fast emerging New York group SUM bring together jazz, soul...

Read More.....
Claire Martin and Liane Carroll top JBGB autumn jazz line-up

Claire Martin and Liane Carroll top JBGB…

There's a busy jazz line-up at the Other Palace, PizzaExpress...

Read More.....
Guadeloupean Drummer Dolmen Goes For Gwoka At French Institute

Guadeloupean Drummer Dolmen Goes For Gwo…

The World Is Moving is an apt title for this...

Read More.....
Riot Jazz Brass Band for ISM Trust's The Empowered Musician Conference

Riot Jazz Brass Band for ISM Trust's The…

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) Trust are holding a...

Read More.....
Bishop Bones Up In Glasgow

Bishop Bones Up In Glasgow

Chicagoan trombonist Jeb Bishop (Vandermark 5/Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet/Globe Unity...

Read More.....
Szun Waves share new video for ‘Moon Runes’

Szun Waves share new video for ‘Moon Run…

Jazztronica trio Szun Waves have just released the video for...

Read More.....
Flying Machines Video Exclusive – ‘New Life’

Flying Machines Video Exclusive – ‘New L…

Guitarist Alex Munk returns in emphatic style with his hard-driving...

Read More.....
Elliot Galvin, Cherise Adams-Burnett and Fini Bearman for Elgar Room jazz fest nights

Elliot Galvin, Cherise Adams-Burnett and…

The Royal Albert Hall's venue-within-a-venue, The Elgar Room, has a...

Read More.....
EFG renews title sponsorship, Jazz Voice stars, Rymden and Jamie Baum for EFG London Jazz Fest

EFG renews title sponsorship, Jazz Voice…

The full programme for this year's EFG London Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Tim Berne/Matt Mitchell Duo and Sheila Maurice-Grey vibe up The Vortex

Tim Berne/Matt Mitchell Duo and Sheila M…

There's a plethora of essential jazz nights lined up at...

Read More.....
Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2018 Nominees Announced

Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2018 Nominees …

The nominations have been announced for this year's Parliamentary Jazz...

Read More.....
Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet Video Premiere and Jazz Cafe Debut

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet Video Premiere…

Polish bassist Wojtek Mazolewski brings his acclaimed Quintet to the...

Read More.....


Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

RT @606club: This Thursday 15th: a benefit gig for the great @MarkMondesir1 feat. Julian Joseph, @CleveWatkiss @MoPleasure @JasRebello @Mic…
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Catch the new super-trio Rymden - featuring Bugge Wesseltoft, Magnus Öström and Dan Berglund - when they play two… https://t.co/3g5r3ejBYR
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA