Award-winning Jazz Artist Kicks Off Sonic Frontiers Concert Series

By Jamon Smith

Wadada Leo Smith

Acclaimed jazz musician Wadada Leo Smith will headline the first concert of the 2017-2018 University of Alabama Sonic Frontiers concert series Oct. 15.

The concert will start at 7:30 p.m. at UA’s Frank Moody Music Building concert hall. Admission is free.

Other performers include Smith’s Golden Quartet, the RedKoral String Quartet and live video projections from artists Jesse Gilbert and Maryam Kashani.

Smith will perform music from “Ten Freedom Summers,” which he describes as his “life’s defining work.”

Dr. Andrew Raffo Dewar is director of the Sonic Frontiers concert series, which invites creative exchange between performers and their audiences.

“Ten Freedom Summers” is inspired by the activity of the civil rights movement from The Niagara Falls Congress in 1905, and from 1948, when President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which abolished the unequal treatment of minorities in the military.

The album was also inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s Memphis speech in 1968.

The composition was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in music.

“I was born in 1941 and grew up in segregated Mississippi and experienced the conditions which made it imperative for an activist movement for equality. I saw that stuff happening. Those are the moments that triggered this. It was in that same environment that I had my first dreams of becoming a composer and performer.” Wadada Leo Smith

Dewar said Smith has been active in creative contemporary music for more than 40 years as a trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser.

He was recently featured as a cover artist in Downbeat Magazine for having won artist, album and trumpeter of the year in the 65th Annual Critic’s Poll. Smith was also named a 2016 Doris Duke Artist.

Born in Leland, Mississippi, Smith’s music career began in high school concerts and marching bands. At 13, he became involved with the Delta blues and improvisation music traditions.

Smith is a faculty member at The Herb Alpert School of Music at California Institute of the Arts.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.