The two meetings thus far between Smith and Mori have been the stuff of epiphany: a duet on Smith's Luminous Axis (an album of Smith's trumpet with a variety of electronic manipulators, released by Tzadik) and a piece during one of Zorn's improv nights at Tonic last fall. After a pair of revelations, these two sets were a consummation.
Smith is a strong jazz player out of Chicago's hard-blowing Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Like his beloved Miles, however, he has an ear for fresh sound, a penchant for silence and an interest in nonacoustic settings.
The pair played from scores, opening into wide fields of sustained sound. While both can be active players at times, here they never broke from understatement. Even "statement" seems too concrete a term. The music was less like utterance than simple knowledge, essence, sound. But for what technically ought be lumped into the electroacoustic vogue, it was overtly musical. Smith remained a horn player, Mori a percussionist; at some level it came off as an updating of duets by two of Smith's departed compadres from the AACM days, trumpeter Lester Bowie and drummer Phillip Wilson. They music wasn't played, it just was. And it was beautiful.
Smith, his dreads shorn after a recent pilgrimage to Mecca, plays long, sustained tones, punctuated by short, bright blasts. It's the perfect pairing for Mori, whose laptop work is of a similar structure but an entirely different sound. The differences in timbre are not the sort of differences that need be overcome. From the first moment, they were singing together, if in different dialects.
Poetry flows as easily from Smith's mouth as sounds from his horn. "We've been playing some pieces that we know and some pieces that we don't know, some compositions that we know and that last one was an improvisation that we didn't know," he said as the set drew to a close. "I don't pass that on to say anything heavy, it's just a way of saying 'hello.' Hello."
And then, one sweet 60-second piece, a pocket melody carrying as much meaning as what came before since the music wasn't about meaning and it wasn't about speaking. It was about being, and it hung in the air for as long as it needed to.
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