Wadada Leo Smith's Current Ensembles


Wadada Leo Smith, Trumpet and Flugelhorn; Anthony Davis, Piano and Fender Rhodes; John Lindberg, Bass; Pheeroan akLaff, Drums.

Golden Quartet is an ensemble of master composers / performers, whose experimental practice utilizes the quartet form, which is the purest foundation of musical expression in jazz / creative music and western music culture. As multi-instrumentalists they are concerned with a practice and research that involves an array of complex systemic forms, where the musical languages of compositional / improvisational / ankhrasmation are merged seamlessly in their interactive development in the quartet and are manifested in the performance dimension as a single music language. Golden Quartet’s music is fiery, explosive, and surges with a positive improvised energy force that’s constructed with polycentric melodic / sonic / rhythm units. The ensemble’s textural and structural materials reveal a musical terrain that is creatively rich and architecturally clear in form.

For more info please visit the Golden Quartet page.


Wadada Leo Smith, Trumpet; J.D. Parran, A, D, E flat, B flat and Contrabass Clarinets; Jen Shyu, Voice; Joe Exley, Tuba; Jennifer Choi, Violin; Okkyung Lee, cello; Michael Gregory, Guitar; Yuko Fujiyama or Vicki Ray, Piano; Wes Brown, Electric Bass; John Lindberg, Bass; Martin Obeng, Drums; Harris Eisenstadt, Sobar, Kutiro Drums, Glockenspiel.

Silver Orchestra is an ensemble consisting of twelve instrumentalists and was created with a vision that concerns an exploration of musical languages and systems with a developed experimental performance practice for the larger ensemble.

The creative orchestra as a unit is a perfect universe organized by the musical director as a utopian model. This model is also a social organism which functions within the context of democratic ideas and embodies the individual and the collective expressions. Silver Orchestra’s music is the result of the particular view of its creator, the composer/improviser/performer.

Sonic-unit fields within the context of the performance space are used to redefine and orchestrate a complex music field where the relations of its instrumental tonalities, sound, rhythm, range, weight, spatial depth, silence, and space (horizontal and vertical); its velocity/density/textural structure (with their rates of evolution scored) are the elements of building a new creative orchestra. With this musical construction, the Silver Orchestra creates a multi-sonic spectrum, that when realized in performance is much larger in sound form than ensembles employing the triadic and harmonic traditions.

The rhythm-unit fields play a vital role as to how the sonic fields will shapes the philosophical and psychological meaning that is always inherited within every constructed music object. To achieve a different ensemble for the composer / improviser /performer I developed a new system of rhythm-unit sets that was non-metrical in design, and would maintain that authentic energy that rhythm has. These rhythm-unit sets were designed to preserve the function of motion / flow activity, and also to articulate an emotional range that contains the same aesthetic beauty which is associated with the practice of metrical rhythms today.

Silver Orchestra’s music is powerful, fiery and polycentric in its interactive character with a contemporary spiritual consciousness that is heartfelt and is connected with the human experience. The ensemble’s textural and structural materials reveal a musical terrain that is creatively rich in its rhythmic / sonic spectrum and architecturally clear in form.

Silver Orchestra can be heard on Wadada Leo Smith's “Lake Biwa” CD on Tzadik Records.


Wadada Leo Smith, Trumpet and Flugelhorn: Min Xiao-Fen, Pipa and Voice; Pheeroan Aklaff, Drums

An ensemble dedicated to realizing a spiritual music within the American creative music idiom, where the music has the same conception and philosophical mystical nature as the Shona music tradition of Zimbabwe, but within a contemporary context.
Mbira’s CD is on Tum Records Oy Helsinki Finland, unreleased.


Wadada Leo Smith, Trumpet and Flugelhorn; Michael Gregory, Guitar; Brandon Ross, Guitar; Nels Cline, Guitar; Lamar Smith, Guitar; Okkyung Lee, Cello; John Lindberg. Bass; Skuli Sverrisson, Electric Bass; Pheeroan Aklaff, Drums

Organic was organized to present an electric music idiom that utilized the same performance principles that Wadada’s other ensembles use. This means that the ensemble’s use of languages and systems are fundamental to the conception of making music. The instrumentation consists primarily of electric strings (4 guitars, cello, 2 basses), but what is truly different with Organic’s music is its ability to establish a polycentric / polytonal and multi-layered grid where each performer has the right and responsibility to creatively organize the ensemble’s musical space and ideas as it moves across the performance dimension. The value placed on electronics is communal in character and has a philosophy centered in the art of sound making, and is not noise based.

Organic’s music is powerfully electric and electronic in nature; fiery and interactive in character; contemporary, spiritual and politically conscious, its creative energy is heartfelt and connected with the human feeling.

Organic can be heard on "Heart's Reflections" (2011), and “Spiritual Dimensions” (2008).


© 1997-2011 Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith