Exposé Online banner

Wadada Leo Smith — The Great Lakes Suites
(TUM Records 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

2020-06-14
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more

2020-05-14
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more

2020-05-06
Florian Schneider RIP – Florian Schneider, one of the founders of the pioneering electronic group Kraftwerk, has died at the age of 73. Co-founder Ralf Hütter announced that his bandmate had passed away from cancer after a brief illness. » Read more

2020-04-23
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Five Fifteen - Six Dimensions of the Electric Camembert – For their fourth album (the first I’ve heard), Finland’s Five Fifteen continue their tradition of long psychedelic titles. Gong fans don’t be fooled, the mention of the French cheese...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues