|Review courtesy of All About Jazz:
Wadada Leo Smith has been a leading proponent of the creation of a new world music since the late '60s, in confluence with Chicago's AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). Much like Don Cherry, Smith draws from a broad palate of world musics, and he's a musical pioneer of the highest order.
Luminous Axis features music for trumpet with electronics, flugelhorn, computer-driven electronics, and percussion. The music presented here is spacious, thoughtful, and imbued with an overall gentleness that is quite compelling. It is also quite adventurous in conception and execution—this is not an easy music to pull off. Smith's command of his instrument is stunning; he produces split tones, fiery chromatic cascades, wide intervallic leaps, or breathy overtones with a master's deft touch. His use of electronic instruments in these compositions is the finest integration of acoustic and electronic mediums I've ever heard. His use of percussion in conjunction with electronic sounds is brilliant; the results are fused into a singular expression. This can only be accomplished by understanding the defining character of each musical event, whether that event is acoustic, electronic, gesture, or silence.
"Garden of the Heart" sounds like what sitting meditation feels like. There is a simultaneous quality of unrest and tranquility in this piece. Electronic voices shutter and whisper disturbing messages, swells of percussion add an unbalanced sense of being, and the trumpet counters with a "shining path" of beautiful melody. "Perfect Essence" visits the teeming landscapes developed by Miles Davis circa "Dark Magus" and puts a whole new feel to that vibe—and the piece is thirty-three seconds long!
"Radiant Light Gushing From The Sun" is filled with mysterious silences, strident trumpet flourishes, and delicate shadings of light and dark. "Night Splendor..." is haunted by strange cicadas, the ghost of Don Cherry, and dark pools of water. "Tango" offers a dancing jungle of subtle drumming and the fleeting shadows of playful, dangerous animals.
Wadada Leo Smith has put a lifetime of philosophy, study, experience—and a whole lot of soul—into these far-reaching compositions. Every selection on this disc is a synergy of arrangement, purpose, performance, heartfelt human experience, grace, and humility. Luminous Axis should draw emphatic interest from listeners curious about the exploration of modern compositional style and performance. It's simply brilliant.