Wadada Leo Smith- Atlas Performing Arts Center (Friday & Saturday, October 25-26, 2013), show times: 8pm (Friday and Saturday) and 3pm (Saturday); tickets: $33.50/per show or $85.50 for all three shows
Though slavery was officially abolished in 1865 and the right to vote was afforded to former (male) slaves in 1870, the condition of African Americans did not improve simply because Amendments to the Constitution had been ratified. African Americans came to learn that the end of slavery was not the same as freedom and it definitely didn’t guarantee that they’d be accepted as equals. It was an end to physical bondage. It was an end to the legality of the possession of human beings as property. But hatred was legal and so was discrimination. What good was freeing the bodies of the enslaved if it meant that they wouldn’t be allowed to live freely?
Nearly one hundred years after slavery ended and rights were guaranteed in the Constitution, a new movement was born: the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans and sympathetic men and women of other racial and ethnic backgrounds coordinated bus boycotts, sit-ins, freedom rides, and marches as a way of demonstrating the lengths they were willing to go to in order to truly live as free people. One of the most historic examples of a living, breathing pursuit of freedom was the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led March on Washington. An estimated 200,000-300,000 people converged on the National Mall in Washington, DC to rally for human rights.
From a musical perspective, jazz artists found inspiration in what Dr. King and others were doing on behalf of African American people. As we celebrate the fifty-year anniversary of the March on Washington, jazz musicians continue to draw inspiration from the Movement. Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith is one such musician. His project, Ten Freedom Summers will premiere at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in three parts, over three separate shows this coming Friday (8pm) and Saturday (3pm & 8pm).
Ten Freedom Summers, which was recorded last year as a 4-cd set, has been the source of numerous awards and recognitions for Smith including a nomination for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, recognition in DownBeat Magazine’s 61st Annual Critic’s Poll as the 2013 Composer of the Year, 2013 Musician of the Year and Trumpeter of the Year Awards from the Jazz Journalists Association, and Musica Magazine’s 2012 International Musician of the Year Award. The suite, which Smith began work on back in 1977, contains more than twenty-three compositions that are based on important moments that occurred within a ten-year span (1954-1964) of the Civil Rights Movement. The piece also includes Smith’s take on the Dred Scott Decision of 1857, and the American tragedy of September 11, 2001. The Atlas Performing Arts Center premiere will also feature never before heard pieces about the heart-wrenching 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing and the March on Washington.
Smith will be joined onstage by the Golden Quartet and the Pacifica Red Coral. Visual artist Jesse Gilbert will display images in accompaniment to the music.
Tickets for this three-part performance can be purchased individually or at a discounted package price for all three shows. Contact the box office at 202-399-7993 for more information or go to http://atlasarts.org.