Jan 12, 2018
UVA Arts

Charlottesville, VA – Jazz musician, composer and artist Wadada Leo Smith will visit Charlottesville in January, bringing with him the multi-media Golden Quintet featuring pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, cellist Ashley Walters, drummer Pheeroan Ak Laff and collaborating video artist Jesse Gilbert who creates live videography within the performance.

Mr. Smith is Downbeat Magazine’s 2017 Artist of the Year, his suite, America’s National Parks, was named Downbeat’s Album of the Year, and in addition, Mr. Smith was named Downbeat’s Trumpet Player of the Year. This marks a rare “trifecta” of awards prior to Mr. Smith’s first visit to Charlottesville.

The University of Virginia Arts Administration Program in the McIntire Department of Art and the UVA McIntire Department of Music are co-hosting an Artist Residency as well as the Impulse Festival of Improvisation that feature Wadada Leo Smith and the Golden Quintet, as well as several University student and faculty-led improvised music ensembles. Events include four concerts, a student jam session, an art opening, as well as a series of lectures, workshops and demonstrations. Members of the Golden Quintet perform in two concerts. All events in the residency and festival are free except for the final concert on Saturday night. For descriptions of each event please see the individual listings below. Wadada Leo Smith and the Golden Quintet present the culminating concert in Impulse Festival of Improvisation, America’s National Parks, on Saturday January 27, 8pm in Old Cabell Hall. This is a multi-media event, with video artist Jesse Gilbert contributing live video. Tickets for America’s National Parks $15 for the general public/ $13 for UVA faculty and staff/ $10 for students and free for UVA students in advance. Tickets are available at the UVA Arts Box Office by visiting artsboxoffice.virginia.edu, calling 434.924.3376 or at the door.

For a full list of Impulse Festival events please visit music.virginia.edu/impulse-festival or call 434.924.3052

For a full list of Residency events visit: http://www.virginia.edu/art/arts-admin/wadadaleosmith

Residency Events:

Video Artist Jesse Gilbert Talk & Demonstration
Wednesday, January 24, 7 PM
UVA’s Campbell Hall, Room 153, Free
Video Artist Jesse Gilbert gives a talk & demonstration on his creative process.


Wadada Leo Smith and Jesse Gilbert give a Preview & Technique Talk
on the making of America’s National Parks
Thursday, January 25, 7 PM
UVA’s Campbell Hall, Room 153, Free


Get Impulsive! A Student Jam Session
Thursday, January 25, 9 PM
1515 University Avenue, Free
Student Jam Session with a wide variety of musical styles hosted by University Programs Council


Colloquium with Nirmal Bajekal and Mayuresh Abhyankar
Friday, January, 26, 3:30pm
107 Old Cabell Hall, Free


Discussion on the role of improvisation in Hindustani Classical music.

Opening Reception for an Art Exhibition of Wadada Leo Smith’s unique Ankhrasmation musical scores
Friday, January 26, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, Free


The exhibition will run January 26 – April 8

Origins: Impulse Festival Concert #1
Friday, January 26, 8 PM
Old Cabell Hall, Free


ORIGINS juxtaposes diverse genres relying on improvisation: European baroque, (UVA Baroque Orchestra), American jazz (UVA Jazz Small Group with special guest vocalist Stephanie Nakasian), and Hindustani classical music (Swaraprabha Hindustani Classical Indian Vocal Ensemble with Nirmal Bajekal – voice, and Mayuresh Abhyankar – tabla).   This event does not include any of the Golden Quintet musicians.

Musical Awareness of Natural Law with Golden Quintet Bassist John Lindberg (Demonstration / Workshop)
Saturday, January 27, 9:30 AM
107 Old Cabell Hall, Free


Golden Quintet Bassist John Lindberg will give a Lecture / Demonstration / Workshop entitled Musical Awareness of Natural Law.  Musicians are welcome to bring their instruments.

The 21st Century Cellist a lecture/ workshop/demonstration/ with Cellist Ashley Walters
Saturday, January 27, 10:30 AM
107 Old Cabell Hall, Free


Musicians are welcome to bring their instruments.

Meditations: Impulse Festival Concert #2
Saturday, January 27thNoon
Old Cabell Hall, Free

434.924.3052;  http://music.virginia.edu/impulse-meditations

Meditations features three guest artists who draw on diverse musical styles from around the world: guitarist Ayman Fanous; violinist Stephen Nachmanovitch; and will include a solo performance by Golden Quintet member, pianist Anthony Davis.

Conversations: Impulse Festival Concert #3
Saturday, January 27, 3:30 PM
Old Cabell Hall, Free


Conversations features three distinct improvising ensembles, UVA New Music Ensemble, AZUL (John D’earth, Greg Howard and Brian Caputo), and EcoSono Ensemble (directed by Mathew Burtner) engage in everything from improvising on compositions to completely free improvisations, with no preconceptions or roadmap. Conversations does not include any of the Golden Quintet musicians.

Wadada Leo Smith and his Golden Quintet’s, America’s National Parks
Impulse Festival concert #4
Saturday, January 27, 8 PM

Old Cabell Hall, $15 / $13 for UVA faculty & staff / $10 for students;  free for UVA Students who reserve in advance


tickets: tickets.artsboxoffice.virginia.edu/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=7317

The finale of the UVA Music Department Impulse Festival and the UVA Arts Administration Residency program features iconic composer and trumpeter WADADA LEO SMITH and his Golden Quintet’s in a multimedia performance of AMERICA’s NATIONAL PARKS. Smiths’ piece interweaves stunning visual imagery from our National Parks with live performance. Wadada Leo Smith is Downbeat Magazine’s 2017 critics poll winner for jazz artist, trumpeter and album of the year. The Saturday evening performance ofAmerica’s National Parks is only the second time this piece will have been performed live. Video artist Jesse Gilbert is an integral element, as he improvises and live-mixes three layers of imagery: pictures of National Parks, real-time shots of the concert as it is performed, both overlain with painterly effects generated by a digital algorithm which creates images using a live music feed from the sound board.  The effect, when combined with the music, is an extraordinary multi-sensory creative journey.


About the Artist:

Wadada Leo Smith has been a jazz composer and trumpeter for the last half-century. He recently retired from the faculty at the California Institute for the Arts after a long teaching career. In August 2017, he was named Downbeat Magazine’s Artist of the Year, Trumpeter of the Year and the CD of original compositions which he will perform here, America’s National Parks was named Album of the Year. This “trifecta of recognition” is a very rare occurrence, as is his appearance on two Downbeat Magazine covers within a year (November 2016 & August 2017).

Given the timing and context of this residency six months after the horrific acts of August, 2017, it is important to mention Wadada’s Ten Freedom Summers, his masterwork on the Civil Rights Movement that won a Multi-Arts Production (MAP) Fund award and made him one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in 2013. His upbringing in segregated Mississippi provided a perspective he has never lost and makes his achievements as a trail-blazing musician and theoretician about art in general all the more substantial. This residency gives UVA and Charlottesville a special opportunity to appreciate how art can inform and educate on the oblique.  Rather than hitting one head on, the artistic power to transform sometimes lies in a common space of abstraction and metaphor. This contemporary abstract art will interact with social issues within the Charlottesville community without directly targeting any one constituency.

The residency features this multi-media, multi-part work which extends the notion of “national park” beyond the physical to include one movement entitled Eileen Jackson Southern, 1920-2002: A Literary National Park, after a pioneering African American musicologist. Accompanying Wadada will be The Golden Quintet of video artist Jesse Gilbert, cellist Ashley Walters, pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg and drummer Pheeroan Aklaff. This is an all-star musical ensemble augmented by Gilbert’s live, in concert video improvisations using footage of the national parks, of the concert itself, and images generated from the live sound board.

Sponsors & Collaborators:

The Wadada Leo Smith Residency and Impulse Festival are sponsored by the following UVA entities: Arts Administration program, Arts Council, College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences’ Collective Response: Moving Forward committee, McIntire Department of Art, McIntire Department of Music, Office of the Provost & the Vice Provost for the Arts, Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity, President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, University Programs Council, and WTJU Radio.  Generous support was given by The Acquavella Family, Charlottesville Jazz Society, Gassmann Fund for Innovation in Music, Hampton Inn and Suites, Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.

Contact: George Sampson, Assistant Professor, McIntire Department of Art,
University of Virginia, Email: gws6n@virginia.edu


Wadada Leo Smith

Dark and Deep Flows the River: An Interview with Wadada Leo Smith
Justin Cober-Lake | Published March 12, 2018 | Original Publication: PopMatters

I felt reasonably well prepared for Wadada Leo Smith’s concert. I was familiar with the recordings, I’d interviewed him recently, attended a lecture he’d given, and had another brief chat with him. Seeing Smith and his Golden Quintet create something — in this case at the world premiere performance of America’s National Parks in Charlottesville, Virginia — requires some extra effort. Trumpeter, composer, Pulitzer-nominated Smith doesn’t work in the normal way, and traveling with him offers unusual surprises…”

Keep Reading >