The Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University has selected trumpeter/composer Wadada Leo Smith as one of 14 composers to receive a 2012 Fromm commission. With the commission, Smith will write a new work to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Tentatively titled “The March on Washington D.C. – August 28, 1963,” this will be the 22nd composition in Smith’s highly acclaimed civil rights opus Ten Freedom Summers, which the trumpeter has written over the past 34 years and calls “one of my life’s defining works.”
The new work — composed for Smith’s Golden Quartet, along with string quartet and harp — will premiere on the final evening of a three-night performance of the complete Ten Freedom Summers collection at Roulette in Brooklyn, New York on May 1 – 3, 2013.
A kaleidoscopic, spiritually charged collection of compositions inspired by the struggle for African-American freedom, Ten Freedom Summers was released on CD on the Cuneiform label in May 2012. It has been heralded as “his masterpiece,” (Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine), “the veteran trumpeter’s defining statement,” (Mike Hobart, Financial Times), and as “the most challenging (and emotionally rewarding) release of 2012,” (Bret Saunders, Denver Post).
Since the early 1970s, Smith has performed and recorded mainly with his own groups. He currently leads four principal ensembles: Mbira, a trio with pipa player Min Xiao-Fen and drummer Pheeroan akLaff; the Golden Quartet, his highly celebrated group that now includes Anthony Davis, John Lindberg and Pheeroan akLaff; Organic, a larger ensemble that utilizes instrumentation consisting primarily of electric string instruments; and the Silver Orchestra, which explores Smith’s music for large ensemble. He has released nearly 50 albums under either his own or his bands’ name.
Founded by a patron of contemporary music, the late Paul Fromm, the Fromm Foundation is now in its 60th year, having been located at Harvard University for the past several decades. Since the 1950s, it has commissioned well over 300 new compositions and their performances, and has sponsored hundreds of new music concerts and concert series. “I want to know you,” Igor Stravinsky once said to Fromm, “because contemporary music has many friends but only a few lovers.”
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