Acclaimed trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and educator Wadada Leo Smith has released an oratorio of seven songs inspired by the iconic civil rights leader Rosa Parks. In his own words, Rosa Parks: Pure Love. An Oratorio of Seven Songs is "concerned with ideas of freedom, liberty and justice, a meditation centered around the civil rights movement." Looking at Smith's more than 50 years of creative and artistic vision, this release is yet another inspired organic musical direction that has established him as one of the leading composers and performers of contemporary music. With this personal homage, Smith is taking himself and his audience on another musical and spiritual journey, making discoveries with sparse instrumentation, solo vocalists, spoken word, and historical video presentation, with live performances scheduled for 2019. This tribute to Parks beautifully mixes a world of exceptional vocal parts between African American Karen Parks, Min Xiao-Fen from China, and Carmina Escobar from Mexico. These ethereal voices are accompanied by the strings of the RedKoral Quartet and the Blue Trumpet Quartet of Smith, Ted Daniel, Hugh Ragin, and Graham Haynes. Drummer Pheeroan AkLaff joins on drums and electronic music is provided by Hardedge. With minimal instrumentation, Smith continuously conveys the spiritual narrative of Parks's extraordinary and fearless actions that, in Smith's words, "generated a movement worldwide for liberty and justice for human beings." Although making demands of the listener's attention on each of the seven songs, Smith delivers the sum of the parts, utilizing the full range of emotion available in instrumentation and vocals. The titles elicit Parks's feelings as she makes her journey, with headings such as "Resistance and Unity," "Defiance, Justice And Liberation," and "Postlude: Victory!" Smith's compositions reveal a contemplation of sounds evoking the full range of Rosa Parks's humanity.
- Doug Hall, Allaboutjazz.com