Wadada Leo Smith

Biography

Born: December 18, 1941; Leland, MS  
A consistently adventurous trumpeter who has stuck to playing avant-garde jazz throughout his career, Leo Smith's dry, introverted style (which makes extensive use of space) is a strong contrast to the more jubilant flights of Lester Bowie. Smith originally played drums, mellophone, and French horn before settling on trumpet. He gained early experience performing in R&B groups and played in an Army band while serving in the military. By 1967, Leo Read more Smith was a member of Chicago's AACM. He soon helped to found the Creative Construction Company, an innovative trio with violinist Leroy Jenkins and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton that toured Europe in the late '60s. Smith, who was involved in making the documentary film See the Music in 1970, formed the New Dalta Ahkri in New Haven, CT, an influential if under-documented band that at times included Henry Threadgill, Anthony Davis, and Oliver Lake. Smith studied ethnomusicology in the mid-'70s at Wesleyan, played with Braxton in 1976, and recorded with Derek Bailey's Company. He has also freelanced with his own diverse groups during the past several decades. After becoming a Rastafarian in the 1980s, he changed his name to Wadada Leo Smith. He began teaching at Cal Arts in 1993. Leo Smith, who founded the Kabell label in 1971, has also recorded for Freedom, Moers, ECM, Nesssa, FMP, Black Saint, Nessa, and Sackville in settings ranging from unaccompanied solos to a big band. Read less