DownBeat Magazine's 65th Annual Critics Poll honors Wadada Leo Smith's America's National Parks, released on Cuneiform Records, with its 2017 Jazz Album of the Year Award. The DownBeat Critics Poll Awards, one of the jazz world's most prestigious honors, also recognized Smith with its 2017 Musician of the Year Award and its Trumpeter of the Year Award. Earlier this summer, Smith was named 2017 Jazz Artist of the Year by the Jazz Journalist Association. Without question, 2017 is The Year of Wadada Leo Smith.
"Mr. Smith, a trumpeter of fiery purpose and intrepid imagination" -New York Times
In October 2016, while America celebrated the Centennial of America's National Park Service and prepared for its 45th presidential election, the visionary composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith released an extraordinary double-disc album on Cuneiform Records. Named after and in tribute to America’s National Parks, it was a six-movement suite inspired by the scenic splendor, historic legacy, and political controversies of the country’s public landscapes. Smith recorded the album with his longstanding Golden Quintet: Anthony Davis (piano), Ashley Walters (cello), John Lindberg (bass). Pheeroan akLaff (drums) and Jesse Gilbert (video artist).
Talking about his America's National Parks, Smith noted: "My focus is on the... idea of setting aside reserves for common property of the American citizens: those who have passed on before, those who are here in the present, and those who will come in the future. The...collective notion about common property, inheritance, longevity, transformation, and sustaining beauty down the line...”
Cuneiform Records - the same label that released Smith's monumental, 4-disc tribute to the American Civil Rights movement, Ten Freedom Summers, a finalist for 2013's Pulitzer Prize - released America's National Parks worldwide on October 14th, 2016. Cuneiform announced America's National Parks release in a special "The Word is Out" eblast.
From the moment of its release, America's National Parks steadily accrued acclaim from jazz and creative music critics and fans worldwide. DownBeat Magazine featured Smith on its November cover, calling him a "National Treasure."
"Smith is a true master, and America's National Parks is one of his most visionary works" -The Quietus
As word about America's National Parks spread worldwide, the album received countless positive reviews in magazines, newspapers and webzines, and new reviews continue to emerge. Released in Fall 2016, it also appeared on dozens of high-profile Best of Year lists for 2016, including:
#1 on El Intruso's Ninth Annual International Critics Poll
#1 Jazz CD by The Wire,
and many others
Now, in Summer 2017, America's National Parks has received one of the jazz world's most coveted prizes: named #1 Jazz Album of the Year by DownBeat Magazine's 65th Annual Critics Poll.
If you'd like to share music from America's National Parks, please feel free to use the following track:
"New Orleans: The National Culture Park USA 1718 [Excerpt]":
If YOU have not yet heard America's National Parks, one of the most acclaimed jazz & creative music recordings of the 2016-2017 year, NOW is the time!
America the Beautiful:
Protecting America's Natural Heritage
"The national parks represent an idea born in this country, as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most magnificent and sacred places in our nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone.” - Ken Burns & Dayton Duncan
Beloved by Americans and setting an example embraced by the world, America's National Parks have been called "America's Best Idea". The idea of creating National Parks - setting aside land to be owned by the American people in perpetuity, for the public's pleasure and national pride - was an American innovation. The first dates to 1872, when President Grant designated Yellowstone, the world's first national park. By 1916, the government needed an agency to oversee these priceless treasures. On August 25th, 1916, President Wilson signed the Organic Act, creating the National Park Service “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner … as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
Last summer - on August 26th 2016 - America celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. Centennial celebrations were held throughout 2016 across America. Cuneiform sent out an eblast in August 2016 that congratulated the National Park Service on its landmark anniversary and announced Wadada Leo Smith’s upcoming release of America's National Parks.
Now it's 2017.
A lot has changed in the USA within a year, since Cuneiform sent out that August 2016 announcement.
As 2016 ended, President Obama's second term came to a close. In January 2017, President Trump began his term in office.
"Smith calmly drops another monumental, mythopoetic reimagining of the great America outdoors... It's rare indeed that instrumental music provides such an urgent commentary on current affairs. It's never been more necessary." -The Wire
Now, in 2017, the legacy of Wadada Leo Smith's America's National Parks continues to grow. But the future of America's own National Parks, National Monuments and other public lands is in peril, an alarming fact for all Americans regardless of political affiliation. On Jan. 19, a Guardian article revealed that while Americans had been reacting to assaults on Obamacare, women's rights and civil rights, Congress quietly eased the way for the new administration to give away our federal public lands. Since then, a ceaseless blizzard of legislative bills and decrees have been introduced to sell off, privatize, or privately exploit public lands; cut funding and remove law enforcement from them; and dismantle environmental protections (water, oil drilling, mining etc) on them. Most recently, America's National Monuments and the 1906 Antiquities Act used to create them (and National Parks) have been under attack, their status under "review". New assaults on America's public lands and natural environment arise daily. All are connected; while draining our nation of natural resources, oil/gas/coal corporations and private developers/businessmen would benefit, while impoverishing the American public of its national, natural birthright.
During these politically, socially and racially divided times, America needs its national and natural spaces more than ever before: symbolically, spiritually, socially and physically. Mother Nature is a healing force for all humanity, regardless of color, creed or political affiliation. America's National Parks, National Monuments, and federal lands are the priceless Common Grounds on which our divided nation can come together as One People - Americans - and eventually heal. We must keep America Great by preserving our great lands.
For more information on how to help protect and preserve America's National Parks, National Monuments and public lands for future generations, here are a few suggestions:
National Parks Conservation Association https://twitter.com/NPCA
Natural Resources Defence Council https://twitter.com/NRDC
Wilderness Society https://twitter.com/Wilderness
The Trust for Public Land https://twitter.com/tpl_org
2017's Artist of the Year
“Wadada's been here long enough to accumulate these different feelings and elements and experiences about the human condition, and he's pouring it back on the world. He plays rivers and lakes and mountains and fields. You don't find that so much in music. That's why people are responding.”
- Bill Laswell
Throughout his career, Smith, 75, has been recognized for his groundbreaking work. Transcending the bounds of genre or idiom, he distinctly defines his music, tirelessly inventive in both sound and approach, as "Creative Music." A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, he received the 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and earned an honorary doctorate from CalArts, where he was also celebrated as Faculty Emeritus. In addition, he received the Hammer Museum's 2016 Mohn Award for Career Achievement "honoring brilliance and resilience."
In addition, Smith was honored by the Jazz Journalists Association as their 2017 Musician of the Year as well as the 2017 Duo of the Year for his work with Vijay Iyer. The JJA also named him their 2016 Trumpeter of the Year, 2015 Composer of the Year, and 2013 Musician of the Year. In 2013 he was also selected as DownBeat Magazine's Composer of the Year and he graced the cover of that magazine in November 2016.
"One of America's artistic geniuses, in league with Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis"-All About Jazz
In October 2015, The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago presented the first comprehensive exhibition of Smith's Ankhrasmation scores. In addition to igniting creative sparks in the musicians who perform them, their use of non-standard visual directions makes them works of art in themselves. In 2016, the scores were also featured in the Hammer Museum's Made in L.A. exhibition, and at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Kadist in San Francisco, among other places.
Born December 18, 1941 in Leland, Mississippi, Smith's early musical life began at age thirteen when he became involved with the Delta blues and jazz traditions performing with his stepfather, bluesman Alex Wallace. He received his formal musical education from the U.S. Military band program (1963), the Sherwood School of Music (1967-69), and Wesleyan University (1975-76).
For the last five decades, Smith has been a member of the legendary AACM collective, pivotal in its wide-open perspectives on music and art in general. He has carried those all-embracing concepts into his own work, expanding upon them in myriad ways.
Smith has released more than 50 albums as a leader on labels including ECM, Moers, Black Saint, Tzadik, Pi Recordings, TUM, Leo and Cuneiform. His diverse discography reveals a recorded history centered around important issues that have impacted his world, exploring the social, natural and political environments of his times with passion and fierce intelligence.
For more about Wadada Leo Smith and his impressive discography, released on some of the world's most respected and adventurous labels, please follow this link:
To hear Wadada Leo Smith's seven releases (several featuring multiple discs) on Cuneiform Records, please follow these links:
Wadada Leo Smith: Golden Quartet & Organic (on Cuneiform)
Wadada Leo Smith: Yo Miles (on Cuneiform)
Four years before the release of America's National Parks, Wadada Leo Smith had released another epic work on Cuneiform Records. Ten Freedom Summers was a landmark civil rights opus that garnered critical acclaim worldwide and was honored as one of the three finalists for the 2013 Pultizer Prize; "A staggering achievement [that] merits comparison to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme in sobriety and reach” (Francis Davis, Rhapsody Jazz Critics Poll). A monumental work released as a four-disc set, Ten Freedom Summers came out on Cuneiform in 2012.
If you've not yet heard Ten Freedom Summers, one of the most acclaimed jazz & creative music recordings of the 2012-2013 year, NOW is the time!
About Cuneiform Records
"Cuneiform has kept atop its game for so many years..because it recognizes that the frontiers are there. ...you can trust their judgement. ...almost everything in sight is an album you ought to hear. So go hear them…." - Dave Thompson, "Cuneiform Records — Thirty-plus Years of Essential Listening," Goldmine
Cuneiform Records is one of the world's most longstanding independent record labels. Internationally respected for high-quality releases of avant garde music by some of the best musicians in the world, it releases music by established icons as well as young rising stars. Cuneiform specializes in cutting-edge music in a wide variety of genres, ranging from jazz to rock to electronic to post-classical to Rock in Opposition and beyond - and is especially known for releasing creative music that defies, re-defines, hybridizes and/or transcends existing musical genres, blazing future paths.
"...the ever wonderful Cuneiform Records..." - BBC
Based in the Washington DC beltway (downtown Silver Spring, MD) since 1984, it has released more than 450 albums to date. Its releases have been critically acclaimed worldwide, and have appeared over the years in Best-Albums-of-the-Year lists in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Popmatters, The Quietus, DownBeat, Jazz Wise, The Wire, and more. Cuneiform's recordings have been featured worldwide on radio ranging from college and community stations to national radio (NPR, BBC, RAI, NRK). In addition, Cuneiform Records has been honored over the years by inclusion in a number of year-end Best Record Label lists (under both jazz and rock/avant-progressive genres); most recently, it was cited in El Intruso's 2016 International Critics Poll as one of the world's top 5 creative music/jazz record labels.