Trumpeter, composer and musical visionary Wadada Leo Smith has received the Hammer Museum 2016 Mohn Award for Career Achievement “honoring brilliance and resilience.” The $25,000 Award was announced August 16 by the museum and presented in conjunction with the exhibition Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, through, only, organized by Hammer curator Adam Moshayedi and Hamza Walker, director of education and associate curator, Renaissance Society. Dancer and choreographer Adam Linder also received a Mohn Award for artistic excellence and Kenzi Shiokava received the Public Recognition Award.
“The jury wants to acknowledge Wadada Leo Smith’s outstanding achievements as a musician, his influential work as a teacher and a mentor for younger artists in Los Angeles, and the decades-long expansion of an inventive, completx and layered system of notation simultaneously interrogating the picotral and the performative,” stated Juse Luis Blondet, curator, Special Initiatives, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“I’m so honored to have won this award,” said Smith. “I’m so happy that my scores are being viewed as works of art. That means the world to me.”
Smith, who turns 75 in December 2016, recently received a 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and received an honorary doctorate from CalArts, where he was honored as Faculty Emeritus. He maintains an active touring and recording schedule. His latest epic recording America’s National Parks will be released October 14, 2016 on Cuneiform Records. A six-movement suite inspired by the scenic splendor, historic legacy, and political controversies of the country’s public landscapes the recording features Smith with pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, drummer Pheeroan akLaff and cellist Ashley Walters. Later this year TUM Records will release Wadada Leo Smith: Nagwa featuring Smith with guitarists Michael Gregory Jackson, Henry Kaiser, Brandon Ross and Lamar Smith, plus Bill Laswell on electric bass, Pheeroan akLaff on drums and Adam Rudolph on percussion. Coming on TUM in early 2017 will be Alone: Reflections and Meditations on Monk, a solo recording.
Smith’s 2016 schedule includes performances at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Berlin Jazz Festival, Molde Jazz Festival, Pittsburgh International LiveJazz Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Vision Festival, Festival Suoni Per il Pipolo, Summer Stage, NYC and the premiere of his opera /cantata Rosa Parks at the FONT Festival, among others (see full schedule at end of this release.)
Totaling $150,000, the Mohn Awards are among the largest art prizes dedicated to recognizing the work of emerging and under-recognized artists from the greater Los Angeles region. A jury of professional curators selected the Mohn Award and the Career Achievement Award while the Public Recognition Award was determined by on-site voting from June 11 through August 14, 2016. The jury included Ingrid Schaffner, curator, 57th Carnegie International, 2018, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Mika Yoshitake, associate curator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and Jose Luis Blondet, curator, Special Initiatives, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. All three awards were once again funded through the generosity of Los Angeles philanthropists and art collectors Jarl and Pamela Mohn and the Mohn Family Foundation as part of Made in L.A., the Hammer's biennial exhibition series highlighting emerging and under-recognized artists from the Los Angeles region.
“Curators Aram Moshayedi and Hamza Walker selected a tight group of artists and offered them room to stretch. This exhibition is stunning in terms of the range of practices and performers, the depth of exploration, and the array of programs it presents. It's as it if everyone won and gave a prize through their participation in Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only,” said Ingrid Schaffner.
Wadada Leo Smith, whose roots are in the Delta blues, is one of the most boldly original figures in American jazz and creative contemporary music and one of the great trumpet players of our time. As a composer, improviser, performer, music theorist/writer and educator, Smith has devoted a lifetime to navigating the emotional heart, spiritual soul, social significance and physical structure of jazz to create new music of infinite possibility and nuance.
A 2016 Doris Duke Artist and 2013 Pulitzer finalist, Smith was DownBeat Magazine’s 2013 “Composer of the Year” and the Jazz Journalist Association’s 2013 Musician of the Year and Trumpeter of the Year. In 2014 DownBeat magazine named him “One of the 80 Coolest Things in Jazz Today,” citing his “magisterial instrumental voice, his inspirational leadership, and his command of classical, jazz and blues forms to remind us of what’s gone down and what’s still happening.” The Jazz Journalists Association named Smith Composer of the Year in 2015. Early in his career, Smith developed Ankhrasmation, a radically original musical language that uses visual directions and remains the philosophical foundation of his oeuvre. In October 2015, The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago presented the first comprehensive exhibition of his Ankhrasmation scores.
Smith has released more than 50 albums as a leader. His landmark 2012 civil rights opus Ten Freedom Summers was called “A staggering achievement… It merits comparison to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme in sobriety and reach,” (Francis Davis, Rhapsody Jazz Critics Poll). Recent recordings include The Great Lakes Suites, which earned second place in NPR Music’s 2014 Jazz Critics Poll and Celestial Weather, which garnered extensive praise as “a perfectly suited twosome…4.5 stars” (DownBeat). In March 2016 ECM released a cosmic rhythm with each stroke featuring pianist Vijay Iyer and Smith, whom Iyer calls his “hero, friend and mentor.” The recording has earned wide critical acclaim and the duo is touring internationally in 2016 and 2017.
Born December 18, 1941 in Leland, Mississippi, Smith began performing at age thirteen with his stepfather, bluesman Alex Wallace and went on to play in his high school bands. He received his formal musical education from the U.S. Military band program (1963), the Sherwood School of Music (1967-69), and Wesleyan University (1975-76). Part of the first generation of musicians to come out of Chicago’s AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music), Smith collaborated with a dazzling cast of fellow visionaries. He has received commissions to write music for numerous groups including the Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and was invited to perform and speak on human rights at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens.
Smith has been awarded grants and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, Chamber Music America with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Meet the Composer/Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Commissioning Program, the MAP Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts, among many others.
Wadada Leo Smith Upcoming Events
• Saturday, Sept. 24 – Premiere of Smith’s opera /cantata Rosa Parks – FONT Festival, NYC
• Tuesday, Sept. 27 – Smith and Iyer – Amherst, MA
• Friday, Oct. 14 – AACM concert featuring Wadada Leo Smith with Bobby Naughton and Dwight Andrews – The Community Church of New York, NYC
• Sunday, Oct. 23 – Smith & John Lindberg duo Celestial Weather – LaFontsie Galleries, Grand Rapids, MI
• Wednesday, Oct. 26 – Smith & John Lindberg duo Celestial Weather – Edgefest (20th Anniv. Edition), Ann Arbor, MI
• October 28 & 29 – Smith & John Lindberg duo Celestial Weather w. drummer Mike Reed – Constellation, Chicago, IL
• Sunday, Oct. 30 – Smith & John Lindberg duo Celestial Weather – Woodland Pattern, Milwaukee, WI
• Thursday, Nov. 3 – Smith’s Great Lakes Quartet performing The Great Lakes Suites – Berlin Jazz Festival
• Sunday, Nov. 6 – Wadada duet with pianist Alexander Hawkins – Berlin Jazz Festival
• Wednesday, Nov. 9 – Wadada Leo Smith & Vijay Iyer duo – Benaroya Hall’s Nordstrom Recital Hall – Earshot Jazz Festival
• Saturday, Nov. 19 – Wadada & Iyer – Bielsko-Biala – Poland
• December 14-17 – Wadada Leo Smith’s Four Symphonies – Kadist, Wattis, & The Lab – San Francisco, CA
• Friday, Jan. 6 – Wadada-Vijay duo – Wigmore Hall, London, England
• Saturday, Jan. 7 – Wadada-Vijay duo – Klub Zak, Gdansk, Poland
• Sunday, Jan. 8 – Wadada-Vijay duo – Lantaren Venster, Rotterdam, Netherlands
• Monday, Jan. 9 – Wadada-Vijay duo – Harpa, Reykjavik
• Wednesday, Jan. 11 – Wadada-Vijay duo – Philharmonie Chamber Hall, Luxembourg
• Thursday, Jan. 12 – Wadada-Vijay duo – Kölner Philharmonie, Köln, Germany
• Friday, Jan. 13 – Wadada-Vijay duo – Brussels Jazz Festival – Flagey, Brussels, Belgium
• Sunday, Jan. 15 – Wadada-Vijay duo – Teatro Manzoni , Milan, Italy
• Tuesday, Jan. 17 – Wadada-Vijay duo – Sons D'Hiver Festival – Espace Jean Vilar, Arcueil, France