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Showing posts from March, 2012

Wadada Leo Smith: Mbira: Dark Lady of the Sonnets: TUM Records, 2011

“Mbira” is the word for “thumb piano” in the Shona language of Zimbabwe. Mbira is also the name of a trio of musicians created in the spirit of the Shona story-telling tradition by trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. Joining him in the trio is Min Xiao-Fen, Japanese pipa player and singer, and drummer Pheeroan Aklaff.  The title of Mbria’s recording, Dark Lady of the Sonnets, stems from Smith’s poem of the same title referring to Blues singer, Billie Holiday.

As with anything he does, Smith approaches the music making with the utmost integrity. Smith’s choice of instruments to include the four-string wooden lute-like Japanese pipa to play in combination with the trumpet, flugelhorn and standard drum set, is more concerned with how distinctly different sound voices relate to each other than with their ethnic origins.

The high-pitched non-resonant quick strumming of the pipa matched with the elegant slow tempo unraveling of a melody from the trumpet becomes the first piece, “Sarah Bell Wallace…