Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Smith, Leo

Smith, Leo, trumpeter, flugelhornist, composer, percussionist; b. Leland, MS, 18 December 1941. As an adult he now goes under the name Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, or just Wadada Leo Smith.

He received his formal musical education with his father, the U.S. Military band program (1963), Sherwood School of Music  (1967-69), and Wesleyan University (1975-76). As an Improvisor-Composer, Smith has studied a variety of music cultures (African, Japanese, Indonesian, European and American) and has developed a Jazz and world music theory, and a notation system to fully express this music which he calls "Ankhrasmation". He has taught at the University of New Haven 1975-'76, the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY. 1975-'78, and Bard College 1987-'93. He is currently the Dizzy Gillespie Chair at the California Institute of the Arts 1993-present. He is a member of B.M.I., and AMRA, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. He was invited to a conference of artists, scientists and philosophers "Third Culture Copenhagen" in Denmark 1996, and presented a paper on his Ankhrasmation music theory and notational system for creative musicians.
He has composed music for solo, ensemble, classical and creative orchestra and stage works. His solo piano music has been performed by Ms. Ursula Opens, Ms. Marilyn Crispell, Mr. David Rosenboom and Ms. Vickie Ray.

Smith's Nda-Kulture ensemble has performed most of his music since 1970. His compositions has been performed by other contemporary music ensembles: AACM -Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, Da Capo Chamber Player, New Century Players, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Contemporary Chamber Players (University of Chicago), S.E.M. Ensemble and California E.A.R. Unit. Smith's music for multi-ensembles has been performed since 1969, and his largest work Odwira for 12 multi-ensemble-units was performed in California I stitute of the Arts, March 1995. His Noh piece Heart Reflections was performed in Merkin Concert Hall, NY., November 1996. Some of the artists Mr. Smith has performed with are Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins, Roscoe Mitchell, Lester Bowie, Richard Teitelbaum, Joseph Jarman, George Lewis, Cecil Taylor, Andrew Cyrill, Oliver Lake, Anthony Davis, Carla Bley, David Murray, Don Cherry, Jeanne Lee, Milton Campbell, Henry Brant, Richard Davis, Tadao Sawai, Ed Blackwell, Sabu Toyozumi, Peter Kowald, Kazuko Shiraishi, Han Bennink, Misja Mengelberg, Marion Brown, Kazutoki Umezu, Kosei Yamamoto, Charlie Haden, Kang Tae Hwan, Kim Dae Hwan and Tom Buckner, among many others.

Reflectivity (1974); The Mass on the World (1978); Budding of a Rose (1979); Touch the Earth (1979); Geechie Recollections; Go in Numbers (1980); Spirit Catcher (1980); Akhreanvention (1981); Rastafari (1983); To Break the Shells (1985); Yo Miles! (ca. 1998); The Sky Cries the Blues; Solo Music: Procession of the Great Ancestry; Divine Love; Creative Music 1; Song of Humanity; Human Rights; Cosmos Has Spirit; Kulture Jazz; Tao-Njia -Tzadik; Golden Heart Remembrance; Light; Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet; Reflectativity (sic); Dreams and Secrets

Television broadcast:
Interview was recorded for Denmark T.V., broadcasted September 1996.

Litweiler, The Freedom Principle, 265-86.
Mr. Smith's music philosophy Notes (8 Pieces) Source a New. World Music: Creative Music has been published by Kiom Press 1973, translated and published in Japan by Zen-On Music Company Ltd. 1976. Excerpts appear on Smith's website.In 1981 Notes was translated into Italian and published by Nistri-Litschi Editori. 
Jazz meets Genji in 'Heart Reflections' by Peter Serafin - The Japan Times, 8. 3. 93; available at Smith's website
Downbeat Magazine 10 . 7. 76; ; available at Smith's website

Meet the Composer/ Lila Wallace-Reader's
Digest Commissioning Program 1996, Asian Cultural Council Grantee to
Japan June-Augast 1993; Meet the Composer/ Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest
Commissioning Program 1990; New York Foundation on the Arts Fellowship  in Music 1990; Numerous Meet the Composer Grants since1977; and National  Endowment for the Arts Music Grants 1972, 1974, 1981.

Contact information:

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