Hear Wadada Leo Smith’s landmark ‘Ten Freedom Summers’ this weekend

One of the most lauded jazz albums of 2012 will come to life this weekend at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, where jazz composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith will perform his Pulitzer-nominated “Ten Freedom Summers.” The recording chronicles both tragic and triumphant milestones of the civil rights movement, painted over hours of moody, rich music.

Each song is inspired by a moment, place or person in the African American struggle: Among the approximately 20 (and counting) songs that make up the masterwork, find the violent cacophony of "Dred Scott: 1857" and the proud, quiet thunder of "Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 381 Days."

The three Atlas shows will represent only the fifth time an audience has heard the cycle in its entirety.


Wadada Leo Smith, right, at a performance of "Ten Freedom Summers." (Photo by Steve Gunther)

Smith and an accompanying group of musicians will perform the suite over three concerts, with photo projections that will evoke the moments that inspire each song. The sets are Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m. Smith will also debut new additions to the cycle, including “That Sunday Morning,” an ode to the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Alabama, and a new version of a piece inspired by the March on Washington. Get tickets ($33.50; $85.50 for all performances) here.

Watch Smith explain the suite (and hear some of his unique style) in this interview with Southwest Chamber Music, with whom he performs on many of the songs:

Lavanya Ramanathan is a features reporter for Style.

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Margaret Ely · October 22, 2013

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