The Chicago Symphonies

Disc 1
Movements 1-5 39:48

Disc 2
Movements 1-4 36:38

Disc 3
Movements 1-5 38:45

Disc 4
Movements 1-5 49:13

Wadada Leo Smith trumpet, flugelhorn
Henry Threadgill alto saxophone, flute and bass flute
Jonathon Haffner alto and soprano saxophones
John Lindberg double bass
Jack DeJohnette drums

International release:

November 19, 2021

Wadada Leo Smith's Great Lakes Quartet

The Chicago Symphonies represents another magnificent four-disc collection of extended compositions by composer, musician, artist and educator Wadada Leo Smith leading his Great Lakes Quartet in a celebration of Chicago and the rich contributions of the Midwestern artistic, musical and political culture to the United States of America. The first three symphonies, "Gold," "Diamond" and "Pearl" are performed by Smith with three other contemporary masters of creative music, saxophonist/flutist Henry Threadgill, bassist John Lindberg and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The fourth, "Sapphire Symphony - The Presidents and Their Vision for America," features saxophonist Jonathon Haffner with Smith, Lindberg and DeJohnette.

"The idea of a symphony composed for a sextet was first presented by composer/performer Don Cherry in his classic recording Symphony For Improvisers in 1966," says Wadada Leo Smith. "I have broadened this idea to include the social, political and psychological dynamic into the creative space. My Chicago Symphonies are intended to illustrate and preserve the powerfully unique cultural contribution that the Midwesterners made in helping to shape the American society."

Don Cherry´s classic recording Symphony For Improvisers on Blue Note Records featured Cherry on the cornet with saxophonists Gato Barbieri and Pharoah Sanders, vibraphonist Karl Berger, bassists Henry Grimes and Jean-François Jenny-Clark, and drummer Ed Blackwell. In The Chicago Symphonies, Wadada Leo Smith has expanded his idea of using symphonic form to showcase some of the Midwest´s creative composers/performers, poets, thinkers and political visionaries inside that symphonic form. In particular, The Chicago Symphonies celebrate the historical contributions of creative music in Chicago culture starting with Louis Armstrong and his contemporaries through Sun Ra and others onto the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) as well as, in the case of "Sapphire Symphony," two great presidents hailing from Chicago, Abraham Lincoln and Barack Hussein Obama.

Each disc of The Chicago Symphoniesincludes one of the four symphonies composed by Wadada Leo Smith specifically for the Great Lakes Quartet. The first three symphonies, "Gold Symphony," "Diamond Symphony" and "Pearl Symphony," are performed by the original Great Lakes Quartet ofWadada Leo Smith with saxophonist/flutist Henry Threadill, bassist John Lindberg and drummer Jack DeJohnette whereas the fourth, "Sapphire Symphony - The Presidents and Their Visions of America," features Smith with a representative of a younger generation of creative musicians, saxophonist Jonathon Haffner, as well as Lindberg and DeJohnette.

The Chicago Symphonies follows the release by the Great Lakes Quartet of The Great Lakes Suites (TUM CD 041-2, a double-CD with Smith, Threadgill, Lindberg and DeJohnette) that featured six extended compositions dedicated by Smith to Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario, Lake Superior, Laker Huron, Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. In 2014, The Great Lakes Suites was broadly hailed as one of the top albums of the year.

Ann Braithwaite
Braithwaite & Katz Communications
+1-781-259 9600


City Hall Records
+1-415-457 9080


Wadada Leo Smith (b. 1941), who was part of the first generation of musicians to come out of Chicago´s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), has established himself as one of the leading composers and performers of creative contemporary music. In the late 1960s in Chicago, Smith, saxophonist Anthony Braxton and violinist Leroy Jenkins formed a trio, Braxton, Jenkins and Smith, that was later expanded into a quartet, Creative Construction Company, when drummer Steve McCall later joined them in Paris. Since the early 1970s, Smith has mostly led his own groups, including an important early ensemble New Dalta Akhri followed by N´Da Kulture and, more recently, the Golden Quartet, the Golden Quintet, the Silver Orchestra, Organic, Mbira, the Great Lakes Quartet and Najwa. Smith has also had an extensive career in music education. He has been on the faculty of the University of New Haven (1975-76), The Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York (1975-78), and Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York (1987-92). Until his retirement in 2013, he was the director of the African-American Improvisational Music Program at The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts (1992-2013). In 2012, Smith released his most extensive recording to date, Ten Freedom Summers, a four-CD collection, which was one of three finalists for Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2013. In 2013, he released Occupy The World (TUM CD 037-2), a two-CD recording of six extended compositions performed by Smith with TUMO, a 22-member orchestra. The Great Lakes Suites (TUM CD 041-2), a double-CD with Henry Threadgill, John Lindberg and Jack DeJohnette, was broadly hailed as one of the top albums of the year in 2014. In 2017, Smith received awards for Jazz Artist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year (for America´s National Parks) and Trumpeter of the Year in DownBeat´s 65th Annual Critics Poll and was elected Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. More recently, Smith has released a recording of an extended composition dedicated to the civil rights icon Rosa Parks, which features three vocalists, a string quartet, a trumpet quartet, electronics and a drummer as well as pre-recorded musical excerpts (Rosa Parks: Pure Love. An Oratorio of Seven Songs, TUM CD 057); a solo trumpet recording dedicated to Thelonious Monk (Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk, TUM CD 053); and a recording by a group that included four electric guitarists, electric bassist, drummer and percussionist (Najwa, TUM CD 049). In May 2021, TUM Records commenced the celebration of Smith´s 80thAnniversary year with the release of a pair of three-CD boxed sets, Trumpet: a unique set of solo trumpet music recorded over one week in the beautiful natural acoustics of a medieval stone church on the Southern Coast of Finland, and Sacred Ceremonies, a meeting of three true masters of creative music with Smith joining the ever-versatile electric bassist Bill Laswell and the late, great master drummer Milford Graves in three separate sessions that resulted in a duo CD of Smith with Graves, a duo CD of Smith with Laswell and a trio CD of Smith with both Laswell and Graves. In February 2021, Smith was named one of the 2021 USA Fellows by the United States Artists.

The Chicago Symphonies

Disc 1
Gold Symphony - No. 1
01 Movement 1. Light Fields and Circles: Amina Claudine Myers; Voices / 02 Movement 2. Joyful, Sound and the Numbers; People: The Art Ensemble of Chicago / 03 Movement 3. Pastoral: Joseph Jarman, As If It Were the Season of Seasons; Sherry Scott, Voice; Thurman Barker, Charles Clark and Christopher Gaddy / 04 Movement 4. Creative Music: West End Blues and the Sonic Weather Bird; Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Lil Hardin and Baby Dodds / 05 Movement 5. Star-Fields: The Secretary, John S. Jackson

Disc 2
Diamond Symphony - No. 2
01 Movement 1. The Rare Air Songs In Sonic Forms and Metrical Folding: Henry Threadgill, Steve McCall and Fred Hopkins / 02 Movement 2. Chicago: Culture, Creativity and the Artistic Passion; A Profile of the Next Generations / 03 Movement 3. Muhal Richard Abrams: Levels and Degrees of the Light Spectrums; A New Culture: The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians / 04 Movement 4. Jack DeJohnette: A Special Edition, New Directions and the Sonic Rhythm Units

Disc 3
Pearl Symphony - No. 3
01 Movement 1. For Alto; In the Orchestra: N-M488; Anthony Braxton: Operas / 02 Movement 2. Leroy Jenkins Mixed Quintet Sonics: Dance Opera / 03 Movement 3. Heliocentric Sun Ra´s Energy and Particles of Light / 04 Movement 4. Jupiter Skies: Kelan Phil Cohran and the Chicago Kulture / 05 Movement 5. Scented Yellow and Red Chrysanthemums; Wadada Leo Smith: The Bell In Silence Resonant and Ten Freedom Summers

Disc 4
Sapphire Symphony - No. 4; The Presidents and Their Vision for America
01 Movement 1. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America / 02 Movement 2. Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg: Two Seven Two, 1863 / 03 Movement 3. The Visionaries, Abraham Lincoln and Barack Hussein Obama / 04 Movement 4. Barack Hussein Obama at Selma: the Bridge of Transformation / 05 Movement 5. Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America

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