Wadada Leo Smith
A founding member of the AACM, Wadada has been one of the most creative composers and trumpeters in Jazz for over half a century, and now in his 80s has finally attained the legendary status he deserves.
As explained and illustrated in Downbeat, Wadada has created his own musical language Ankhrasmation, and his colorful scores are exhibited in galleries as paintings. A Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2013 for his masterwork about the Civil Rights Movement, Ten Freedom Summers, Wadada was the JazzTimes Artist of the Year in 2016 as well as a recipient of the coveted Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. Perhaps the only artist in history to be featured on the cover of Downbeat twice in less than a year, Wadada received a trifecta of awards in 2017 from that prestigious publication: Artist, Trumpeter, and Album of the Year, for his Cuneiform CD America’s National Parks.
To create that masterpiece Wadada expanded his Golden Quartet to create a Golden Quintet with Ashley Walters on cello, and their live performances were enhanced by the hypnotic visual imagery of video artist Jesse Gilbert. Wadada followed that with a solo tribute to Monk and an Oratorio for Rosa Parks with 15 musicians, video artist, and dancer, and continued to perform his exquisite duo concerts with Vijay Iyer. Now in his 80s, Wadada has created a new ensemble he calls Purple Kiku – Chrysanthemum, to perform his newest suite, Appassionata, which also features Wadada’s original lighting design.