Wadada Leo Smith brings Pulitzer-nominated Ten Freedom Summers to New Orleans_lowres


There is no overstating the grasp-matching-reach achievement that is Wadada Leo Smith's Ten Freedom Summers. Issued in 2012 by Cuneiform Records after 34 years of workshopping and woodshedding, the trumpeter and composer's definitive collection — a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music and one of the most ambitious and celebrated releases of the new millennium — earns the term "album" better than any before it: four decades-spanning branches, each a family of gestated suites that exceed an hour in length and an average jazz LP's depth and breadth, the unpardonable and irreparable first half of a lifetime brought to its knees by an interpretive retrospective that took most of that life's second half to articulate and fully realize. Smith was born in Leland, Mississippi, in 1941. He was five months younger than Emmett Till and an hour car ride away when the 14-year-old was lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Utilizing free jazz and symphony, meditation and catharsis, Ten Freedom Summers tells the incomplete story of the struggle for American civil rights, an infuriating hopscotch of tragedies and victories from "Dred Scott: 1857" to "Thurgood Marshall and Brown vs. Board of Education: A Dream of Equal Education, 1954"; from "Emmett Till: Defiant, Fearless" in 1955 to "Martin Luther King, Jr.: Memphis, the Prophecy" in 1968. As a kind of demonstration of its colossal gauntlet, fans wishing to experience the entire piece in person will have to road-trip with Smith. This southern United States premiere encompasses four cities in four days: Austin, Texas, gets the first collection on Thursday; Houston, the second on Friday; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a mixed ensemble on Sunday. New Orleans receives part three, a love-lifted microcosm of the movement that tracks backward from a celebration of 1961's Freedom Riders and the eternal spirit of Medgar Evers to the "Little Rock Nine: A Force for Desegregation in Education, 1957," the black students whose attendance at Arkansas' Little Rock Central High School ratified Brown v. Board of Education from theory into practice — five of whom were born the same year as Smith. Tickets $20 (students $15).