Exposé Online banner

Wadada Leo Smith — The Great Lakes Suites
(TUM Records TUM CD 041, 2014, 2CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2014-12-11

The Great Lakes Suites Cover art

Wadada Leo Smith has been on a roll lately, producing prominent works, mainly sprawling thematic compositions like Ten Freedom Summers, and The Great Lakes Suites is a formidable addition to his body of work. Yes, that's "Suites" — plural — as each of the lakes gets its own suite. He's joined in the endeavor by Henry Threadgill (saxes, flutes), Jack DeJohnette (drums), and John Lindberg (bass). Threadgill and DeJohnette need no introduction, but while Lindberg's name is less recognized, his history is testament to his worthiness for inclusion in this company, as it includes being a co-founder of the String Trio of New York and working with Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy, Roswell Rudd, and many others. With players of this caliber, even mediocre compositions (or free improvisation) would probably sound great, but Smith's writing is consistently interesting, with themes, countermelodies, and motifs that provide the perfect glue to hold it all together like signposts along the wandering journeys taken in the solos. The six pieces (he includes the smaller Lake St. Clair in addition to the five Great Lakes proper) stretch out over 90 minutes, and are probably best taken in one at a time, but can be rewarding listening in any increment. All in all, my favorite is probably "Lake Ontario," the shortest suite at 9:19, but there are wonderful moments in all the lakes. Threadgill's bass flute that opens "Lake Erie" is marvellous, and Lindberg's use of the bow in various places throughout the suites is very effective. The Great Lakes Suites is definitely one of the year's highlights in jazz.


Filed under: New releases, 2014 releases

Related artist(s): Wadada Leo Smith, Jack DeJohnette

Latest news

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more

2017-02-20
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more

2017-01-31
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more

2017-01-30
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Jack o' the Clock and Zero Times Everything, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Fonya - Earth Shaper – Fonya is Chris Fournier, a multi-instrumentalist adept at making instrumental symphonic progressive rock in a variety of moods. The album is primarily keyboard-based, using modern keyboard sounds as...  (1996) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues