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Smith, Wadada Leo

String Quartets Nos. 1-12 [7-CD BOXSET]

Smith, Wadada Leo: String Quartets Nos. 1-12  [7-CD BOXSET] (Tum)

Since 1965 Wadada Leo Smith has developed string quartets influenced by a diverse set of composers including Ornette Coleman, Claude Debussy, Howlin' Wolf, Scott Joplin, Olly Wilson, &c. heard here in 12 Quartets from 3 major periods of his work, compositions exploring the African-American experience, with scores that leave room for interpretation and expression from his players.

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product information:

UPC: 6430015288058

Label: Tum
Catalog ID: TUMR805.2
Squidco Product Code: 32197

Format: 7 CDs
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: Finland
Packaging: Box Set - 7 CDs w/ booklet
Recorded at Firehouse Recording Studios in Pasadena, California, on September 29th and October 1st and 2nd, 2015, and at Allegro Recording Studio in Burbank, California, on February 10th, 11th and 12th, 2020, by Matthew Snyder.


Wadada Leo Smith-trumpet, composer

Alison Bjorkedal-harp

Anthony Davis-piano

Lynn Vartan-percussion

Stuart Fox-guitar

Thomas Buckner-voice

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Artist Biographies:

"Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith: trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser has been active in creative contemporary music for over forty years. His systemic music language Ankhrasmation is significant in his development as an artist and educator.

Born in Leland, Mississippi, Smith's early musical life began in the high school concert and marching bands. At the age of thirteen, he became involved with the Delta Blues and Improvisation music traditions. He received his formal musical education with his stepfather Alex Wallace, the U.S. Military band program (1963), Sherwood School of Music (1967-69), and Wesleyan University (1975-76). Mr. Smith has studied a variety of music cultures: African, Japanese, Indonesian, European and American.

He has taught at the University of New Haven (1975-'76), the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY (1975-'78), and Bard College (1987-'93). He is currently a faculty member at The Herb Alpert School of Music at California Institute of the Arts. He is the director of the African-American Improvisational Music program, and is a member of ASCAP, Chamber Music America, and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Mr. Smith's awards and commissions include: MAP Fund Award for "Ten Freedom Summers" (2011), Chamber Music America New Works Grant (2010), NEA Recording Grant (2010), Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2009-2010), Other Minds residency and "Taif", a string quartet commission (2008), Fellow of the Jurassic Foundation (2008), FONT(Festival of New Trumpet) Award of Recognition (2008), Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Award (2005), Islamic World Arts Initiative of Arts International (2004), Fellow of the Civitela Foundation (2003), Fellow at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (2001), "Third Culture Copenhagen" in Denmark-presented a paper on Ankhrasmation (1996), Meet the Composer/Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Commissioning Program (1996), Asian Cultural Council Grantee to Japan (June-August 1993), Meet the Composer/Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Commissioning Program (1990), New York Foundation on the Arts Fellowship in Music (1990), Numerous Meet the Composer Grants (since 1977), and National Endowment for the Arts Music Grants (1972, 1974, 1981).

Mr. Smith's music philosophy Notes (8 Pieces) Source a New. World Music: Creative Music has been published by Kiom Press (1973), translated and published in Japan by Zen-On Music Company Ltd. (1976). In 1981 Notes was translated into Italian and published by Nistri-Litschi Editori.

He was invited to a conference of artists, scientists and philosophers "Third Culture Copenhagen" in Denmark 1996, and presented a paper on his Ankhrasmation music theory and notational system for creative musicians. His interview was recorded for Denmark T.V., broadcasted September 1996.

Some of the artists Mr. Smith has performed with are : Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins, Roscoe Mitchell, Lester Bowie, Richard Teitelbaum, Joseph Jarman, George Lewis, Cecil Taylor, Andrew Cyrill, Oliver Lake, Anthony Davis, Carla Bley, David Murray, Don Cherry, Jeanne Lee, Milton Campbell, Henry Brant, Richard Davis, Tadao Sawai, Ed Blackwell, Sabu Toyozumi, Peter Kowald, Kazuko Shiraishi, Han Bennink, Misja Mengelberg, Marion Brown, Kazutoki Umezu, Kosei Yamamoto, Charlie Haden, Kang Tae Hwan, Kim Dae Hwan, Tom Buckner, Malachi Favors Magoustous and Jack Dejohnette among many others.

Mr. Smith currently has three ensembles: Golden Quartet, Silver Orchestra, and Organic. His compositions have also been performed by other contemporary music ensembles: AACM-Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, Da Capo Chamber Player, New Century Players, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Contemporary Chamber Players (University of Chicago), S.E.M. Ensemble, Southwest Chamber Music, Del Sol String Quartet, New York New Music Ensemble, ne(x)tworks, and California E.A.R. Unit.

Mr. Smith's music for multi-ensembles has been performed since 1969. "Tabligh" for double-ensemble was performed by Golden Quartet and Classical Persian ensemble at Merkin Concert Hall (2006) and by Golden Quartet and Suleyman Erguner's Classical Turkish ensemble at Akbank Music Festival in Istanbul (2007). His largest work "Odwira" for 12 multi-ensembles (52 instrumentalists) was performed at California Institute of the Arts (March 1995). His Noh piece "Heart Reflections" was performed in Merkin Concert Hall, NY (November 1996)."

-Wadada Leo Smith Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Hailed by the LA Times as an "excellent player" and "a force field unto her own, yet joined in something bigger, " Alison Bjorkedal is a passionate ambassador for the harp, with a focus on new music. She is a GRAMMY award-winning musician who performs, records, and teaches in the greater Los Angeles area.

In the studio and stage, Alison has performed for artists including Sia ("Salted Wound", "Jesus Wept," "Unforgettable" from "Finding Dory), Madonna (Rebel Heart), Nate Ruess (Grand Romantic), Kid Cudi (Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin'), Il Divo, Idina Menzel, Salaam Remi, Mary J. Blige (Thank You), Adrian Younge, and Ali Shaheed Muhammed. She records for the motion picture and television industry (Penny Dreadful, Empire, Luke Cage, Finding Dory, Love, Simon, Independence Day: Resurgence, If I Stay, Lucy in the Sky, Annabelle Comes Home, IT 2 ) and appeared in two PBS Specials for David Foster and Andrea Bocelli; "My Christmas" and "Cinema" and the Pentatonix's "A Very Pentatonix Christmas".

She is a member of Southwest Chamber Music, Golden State Pops Orchestra and MUSE/IQUE. Alison has performed with the San Diego Symphony, Pasadena Symphony/Pops Orchestra, Long Beach Symphony, Long Beach Opera, Opera Santa Barbara and wildUP.

As an advocate for contemporary music, Alison's notable chamber music performances include the world premieres of William Kraft's Encounters XII for harp and percussion; Anne LeBaron's HSING for solo harp and LeBaron's "Some Things Should Not Move" for soprano, flute, harp and double bass; and Wadada Leo Smith's Ten Freedom Summers, a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Her chamber recordings include Grammy winning Harry Partch "Plectra and Percussion Dances", Southwest Chamber Music's "Complete Chamber Music of Carlos Chávez, Volume 4" and William Kraft's "Encounters", both Latin-Grammy nominated. As part of Just Strings, she released "Harrison: Works for harp, guitar and percussion".

US premieres include Gabriela Ortiz's Rio de las Mariposas for two harps and steel drum; Ton That Thiet's Les Jardins De Autre Monde for solo harp and mixed ensemble; Nguyen Thien Daos' Au Dessus de Vent for solo harp and strings; and Unsuk Chin's Cosmigimmicks. She was featured as soloist with the Pasadena Symphony and Downey Symphony Orchestra. She performed Lei Liang's "Harp Concerto" with UC San Diego New Music Ensemble "Palimpsest".

Alison was born and raised in Kennewick, WA. She earned her Masters and Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in harp performance from the USC Thornton School of Music, where she studied with JoAnn Turovsky. Alison received her Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Oregon (magna cum laude) where she studied harp with Sally Maxwell and Laura Zaerr.

Alison is on faculty at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Pasadena City College, and the Claremont Colleges (Pomona College, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Pitzer College, Harvey Mudd). She also gives private harp lessons.

Alison also plays the Kithara with LA-based ensemble Partch. Partch's 2014 recording "Plectra and Percussion Dances" took home the 2014 GRAMMY for Best Classical Compendium. Learn more about the wildly unique music and instruments of Harry Partch here."

-Alison Bjorkedal Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Anthony Davis (born February 20, 1951), is an American jazz pianist, composer, and student of gamelan music. Davis is best known for his operas including X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X, which was premiered by the New York City Opera in 1986, Amistad, which premiered with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1997, and Wakonda's Dream, which premiered at Opera Omaha in 2007.

Davis was born in Paterson, New Jersey. He taught at Yale University and Harvard University, and has played with Anthony Braxton and Leo Smith. In 1981, Davis formed an octet called Episteme. He also wrote the incidental music for the Broadway version of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. He incorporates several styles including jazz, rhythm 'n' blues, gospel, non-Western, African, European classical, Indonesian, and experimental music.

Davis has received acclaim as a free-jazz pianist, a co-leader or sideman with various ensembles. Such ensembles include those that featured Smith as bandleader from 1974 to 1977.

Davis is professor of music at the University of California, San Diego. His opera Wakonda's Dream is a tale of a contemporary Native American family and the history that affects them.

His opera Lilith (libretto by Allan Havis) had its world premiere at the Conrad Prebys Music Center in UCSD on December 4, 2009. The story is about Adam's first wife, set in a modern era."

-Wikipedia (

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"Percussionist Lynn Vartan is an international performer and educator who is an advocate for diversity in music. As a new music percussionist Lynn has worked with Michael Colgrass, Vinny Golia, Arthur Jarvinen, Ursula Oppens, Joan Tower, Glen Velez, Xtet, James Newton, Chinary Ung, the Hilliard Ensemble, the Tambuco Percussion Ensemble and Grammy Award-winning Southwest Chamber Music, and is known for her dynamic athleticism and exciting energy on stage. She has commissioned and/or performed countless new works for percussion by composers such as Donald Crockett, William Kraft, Steve Hoey, Veronika Krausas, Erica Muhl, Arthur Jarvinen, Sean Heim, Jeff Holmes, Keith Bradshaw and Shaun Naidoo.

As a recital soloist, Lynn has been featured on the Los Angeles Philharmonic Green Umbrella Series, the Different Trains Series, at universities in residence all over the United States and on the Music at the Court series in Pasadena, California, where she produced her own solo percussion concerts. As a concerto soloist Lynn has performed with various orchestras including the Hubei Opera and Dance Company of Wuhan, China, the Sierra Wind Symphony, the Helena Symphony, The Orchestra of Southern Utah, Southwest Chamber Music, The Helena Symphony, as well as premiering new concertos by both American and Chinese composers. She has participated in cultural exchange projects such as the "World Percussion Group," "Ascending Dragon" Project in Vietnam, "The Dream of Helen "project and China and the "East Meets West" project designed around her as a soloist in Wuhan, China for the Spring of 2014. As a recording artist, Lynn has appeared on the ECM New Series, Albany Records, Cuneifroms Records, Bridge Records, New World Records, Lian Records, Yarlung Records and Cambria. She was three times Grammy nominated on the Cambria label with Southwest Chamber Music in the "Best Classical Album of the Year" and "Best Small Ensemble with or without a conductor" for The Complete Chamber Music of Charlos Chavez, Volume III and the for "Latin Classical Album of the Year" for William Kraft's Complete Encounters Series.

A devoted ensemble musician, Lynn has been actively involved with Southwest Chamber Music, the violin/percussion duo 61/4 which she founded with Shalini Vijayan, and a duo percussion group Exacta that she formed with Tambuco's Miguel Gonzalez and Duo LinLynn with percussionist Wei Chen Lin. In addition to her role as Director of Percussion at Southern Utah University, Lynn is also the Director of the A.P.E.X. Events Series at Southern Utah University and hosts the weekly podcast The A.P.E.X. Hour. Lynn is endorsed by the Paiste Corporation, Remo Inc. and Marimba One."

-Lynn Vart Website (

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"For decades, baritone Thomas Buckner has dedicated himself to the promotion and performance of new and improvised music, collaborating with a host of new music luminaries including Robert Ashley, Noah Creshevsky, Tom Hamilton, Earl Howard, Matthias Kaul, Leroy Jenkins, Bun Ching Lam, Annea Lockwood, Roscoe Mitchell, Phill Niblock, Wadada Leo Smith, Chinary Ung, Christian Wolff and many others.

Buckner has appeared at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Herbst Theatre, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Berlin Spring Festival, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Prague Spring Festival, and the Angelica Festival of Bologna. He is featured on over 50 recordings, including 6 solo albums, the most recent being "New Music for Baritone & Chamber Ensemble," which includes works by Annea Lockwood, Tania Leon, and Petr Kotik. Buckner also appears in the CD/DVD "Kirili et le Nymphéas (Hommage à Monet)" filmed at the Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, which houses the Monet's celebrated Water lilies murals.

For the past thirty years Thomas Buckner has curated the Interpretations series in New York City, and continues to produce recordings on the Mutable Music label, introducing current artists and repertoire, as well as presenting important historic material, previously unavailable in CD format."

-Thomas Buckner Website (

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track listing:


String Quartet No. 1 (1965-1982) Movements 1 - 4 30:55 / String Quartet No. 2 (1969-1980) 16:52


String Quartet No. 3 "Black Church: A First World Gathering of the Spirit" (1995) Movements 1 & 2 21:11 / String Quartet No. 4 (1987-2001) Movements 1 - 5 39:07


String Quartet No. 5 "In the Diaspora - Earthquakes and Sunrise Missions" (2005) 17:16 / String Quartet No. 6 "Taif: Prayer in the Garden of the Hijaz" (2007) 22:53 / String Quartet No. 7 "Ten Thousand Ceveus Peruvianus Amemevical" (2011) 14:38


String Quartet No. 8 "Opuntia Humifusa" (2011) 21:06 / String Quartet No. 9 (2001-2015) Movements 1 & 2 16:33 / String Quartet No. 10 "Angela Davis: Into the Morning Sunlight" (2007-2016) 13:47


String Quartet No. 11 (1975-2019) Movements 1 - 5 54:50


String Quartet No. 11 (1975-2019) Movements 6 - 9 43:55


String Quartet No. 12 (2016-2018) Movements 1 & 2 20:33

All compositions by Wadada Leo Smith

RedKoral Quartet


Alison Bjorkedal harp (String Quartet No. 4)

Wadada Leo Smith trumpet (String Quartets Nos. 6 & 8)

Anthony Davis piano (String Quartet No. 6)

Lynn Vartan percussion (String Quartet No. 6)

Stuart Fox guitar (String Quartet No. 7)

Thomas Buckner voice (String Quartet No. 8)
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.


"In 1965, I started what was to become a fascinating journey in my research and the practice of writing string quartet music.

I heard Ornette Coleman´s (1930-2015) music for string quartet performed and recorded at Town Hall in 1965; the six string quartets of Bela Bartok (1881-1945) and the six late string quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

I listened to Claude Debussy´s (1862-1918) String Quartet in G minor; John Lewis´ (1920-2001) music for string quartet; Anton Webern´s (1883-1945) 1938 string quartet.

In 2013, I started listening to the string quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975); all 15 of his works are a reservoir collection of great string quartet music.

Delta Blues masters B.B. King, (1925-2015), Howlin´ Wolf (1910-1976), Muddy Waters (1913-1983) and John Lee Hooker (1917-2001) have all had a major impact on my writing for strings, both as composers and as electric guitarists.

Composers Scott Joplin (1868-1917), William G. Still (1895-1978), Florence Price (1887-1953), Thomas J. Anderson (1928-), Ulysses Kay (1917-1995), Hale Smith (1925-2009), George Walker (1922-2018), Tania León (1943-), Olly Wilson (1937-2018) and Alvin Singleton (1940-) have been important as creative artists and for their courage and will to thrive in a concert music environment that, at the time, was mostly hostile in response to their compositional art.

It is because of these composers and composer-performers and their music that I cannot complete a composition unless I find its emotional range or the emotional identity in the music.

My compositions for string quartet have four periods. The 12 recorded string quartets consist of three periods: four string quartets composed from 1965 -2001; four string quartets from 2005-2011; and four string quartets from 1987-2019.

Compositions from the fourth period are yet to be recorded. It´s a collection of three string quartets - Nos. 13, 14 and 15 - music correspondent to the 13th, 14th and 15th Constitutional Amendments passed during President Abraham Lincoln´s term in office.

The string quartet form and my ensembles have been major vehicles through which I have experimented with musical composition and philosophical ideas about performance and score. The ensemble as a unit required developing a language with the opportunity to apply research and dreaming-practice to reshape the terms in each new work I envisioned.

My aspiration was to create a body of music that is expressive and that also explores the African American experience in the United States of America. My music is not a historical account. I intend that my inspiration seeks a physiological and cultural reality.

I therefore construct a music that relies on non-traditional components and concepts that allows a shared responsibility for the horizontal flow of the music, including the creative ability to reshape recurrences of musical moments both with interpretations and expressions, to introduce new and different languages into a single work and use that language as a form of expansion and not as a development.

The create symbol is a command that allows the ensemble or the individual to investigate and explore both known and unknown musical materials in the music performance of the scores, and Ankhrasmation symbolic language scores.

Most of the pitched music events in the score have been reduced to long, short sonic relationships and are not metered or time-based events, and speed and mobility are an individual and collective act. A notion of invisible evolutionary forms and inspiration permeate the ritualized space."-Wadada Leo Smith, New Haven, Connecticut, March 29, 2022

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