It is with great excitement that we announce that trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer, Wadada Leo Smith will receive the Vision Festival’s annual Lifetime Achievement Award on June 21, 2022.
Mr. Smith joins a venerable pantheon of FreeJazz pioneers in receiving the Vision Festival Lifetime Achievement Award including Amina Claudine Myers, Andrew Cyrille, Peter Brotzmann, Henry Grimes, Milford Graves, and Sam Rivers.
On this special occasion, Mr. Smith will present new work for the opening night of the festival. His performance at Vision will serve to punctuate a remarkable milestone, 80 years, in a career full of enough achievements for several lifetimes.
In 2021 alone, Mr. Smith has released five new albums, and plans to release another five in 2022. Acknowledging this feat, Richard Ginell of the SF Classical Voice writes:
“For almost anyone in his 70s, it would be the culmination of a life’s work, but for Smith, it was just the opening of the valve to a flood of new compositions crossing back and forth through the porous membrane between the classical and jazz avant-garde.”
We look forward to the debut of new material at VISION in June.
“Wadada Leo Smith has cut his own path in Creative Music, not defined by color but nonetheless, his story has been deeply impacted by lack of equity and recognition of his achievements. AFA looks forward to doing its small part to correct this.” - Patricia Nicholson Parker, Vision Festival Founder
Additional festival details including performances, schedules, tickets, and more to be announced soon at https://www.artsforart.org/vision
Mr. Smith will celebrate his 80th birthday on December 18, 2021. To mark the occasion he has released a special birthday concert of duet, trio and group performances with Pheeroan akLaff, Sylvie Courvoisier, Erika Dohi, and Lamar Smith on guitar. Watch at wadadaleosmith.com
UPDATE: This year there will be TWO Lifetime Achievement Award honorees, Wadada Leo Smith and Oliver Lake. READ MORE.
Trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist and composer Wadada Leo Smith is one of the most boldly original and influential artists of his time. Transcending the bounds of genre or idiom, he distinctly defines his music, tirelessly inventive in both sound and approach, as "Creative Music." For the last five decades, Smith has been a member of the legendary AACM collective, pivotal in its wide-open perspectives on music and art in general. He has carried those all-embracing concepts into his own work, expanding upon them in myriad ways.
Throughout his career, Smith has been recognized for his groundbreaking work. A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, he received the 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and earned an honorary doctorate from CalArts, where he was also celebrated as Faculty Emeritus. In addition, he received the Hammer Museum's 2016 Mohn Award for Career Achievement "honoring brilliance and resilience." In 2018 he received the Religion and The Arts Award from the American Academy of Religion.
Smith regularly earns multiple spots on the DownBeat International Critics Poll. In 2017 he topped three categories: Best Jazz Artist, Trumpeter of the Year and Jazz Album of the Year, and was featured as the subject of a cover story in August 2017. The Jazz Journalists Association also honored Smith as their 2017 Musician of the Year as well as 2017 Duo of the Year for his work with Vijay Iyer. The JJA named him their 2016 Trumpeter of the Year, 2015 Composer of the Year, and 2013 Musician of theYear, and he has earned top billing in two categories in the JazzTimes Critics Poll as Artist of the Year and Composer of the Year.
In October 2015 The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago presented the first comprehensive exhibition of Smith's Ankhrasmation scores, which use non-standard visual directions, making them works of art in themselves as well as igniting creative sparks in the musicians who perform them. In 2016, these scores were also featured in exhibitions at the Hammer Museum, and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Kadist in San Francisco.
Born December 18, 1941 in Leland, Mississippi, Smith's early musical life began at age thirteen when he became involved with the Delta blues and jazz traditions performing with his stepfather, bluesman Alex Wallace. 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).
Smith has released more than 50 albums as a leader on labels including ECM, Moers, Black Saint, Tzadik, Pi Recordings, TUM, Leo and Cuneiform. His diverse discography reveals a recorded history centered around important issues that have impacted his world, exploring the social, natural and political environment of his times with passion and fierce intelligence. His most recent recording is 2019’s Rosa Parks: Pure Love, an Oratorio of Seven Songs. His 2016 recording, America’s National Parks earned a place on numerous best of the year lists including the New York Times, NPR Music and many others. Smith’s landmark 2012 civil rights opus Ten Freedom Summers was called “A staggering achievement [that] merits comparison to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme in sobriety and reach.” Writing about Smith’s 2017 album Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk in the New York Review of Books, Adam Shatz notes: “For all the minimalism of his sound, Smith has turned out to be a maximalist in his ambitions, evolving into one of our most powerful storytellers, an heir to American chroniclers like Charles Ives and Ornette Coleman.”
About the Vision Festival
In 1996 the First Annual Vision Festival took place at The Learning Alliance on Lafayette near Houston. The idea was to bring together luminaries from the different Avantgarde music scenes and, for the first time since the Sound Unity Festivals in the mid ‘80s, celebrate the important African American leaders of the music. Featuring artist Milford Graves, that first Vision Festival was unique in its multi-arts focus featuring poets such as Amiri Baraka, dancers such as Rod Rogers, and visual artists such as Jeff Schlanger, in collaboration with the music.
Each year the Vision Festival also brought attention to issues of social justice by curating panel discussions, such as “Decolonizing the Music: Reclaiming the Power of Creative Music in Communities of Color” or “How Funding Affects Creative Choices.”
In its totality the Vision Festival created and guaranteed a space for improvisation as a leading creative language, heralded as “one of New York’s most essential art events” (New York Times).
In the current political and cultural climate, Arts for Art’s credo is felt more strongly than ever – using powerful music and art as expressions of commitment to life and justice. Past festival titles have included A Vision Against Violence, Avant Jazz For Peace, Studies in Freedom, The Revolution Continues, The Creative Option and Take a Stand.
The Vision Festival continues to honor and amplify the careers of legendary artists that are too often under-appreciated, such as Fred Anderson, Kidd Jordan, Bill Dixon, Sam Rivers, Connie Crothers, and many others.
About Arts for Art
Founded in 1996, AFA’s work is rooted in a commitment to social justice as equity and the promotion and advancement of FreeJazz, an African American indigenous art form in which improvisation is principle. FreeJazz embodies music, dance, poetry and visual arts. It is recognized for its variety of highly developed and personalized improvisational languages. AFA works not only to preserve the legacy of FreeJazz as an African
American multicultural art form, but to ensure a vital future through its re-imagination by new generations of artists. AFA offers multi-arts programs throughout the year that fulfill the role of arts in society, that is, to reflect and respond to the world. Our programming brings together multiple generations of vibrant, diverse and highly skilled artists, including the Artists for A Free World project that includes a band directed by William Parker. AFA cultivates new audiences to protect this unique aesthetic so as to remain contemporary and available. To further our goals of diversity and accessibility, we foster education through our youth programs.
Arts for Art Mission
Arts for Art is dedicated to the exceptional creativity that originated in the African American multi-arts jazz culture that utilizes improvisation to express a larger, more positive dream of inclusion and freedom.
AFA is currently running its Artists & Friends year-end fundraising campaign. Donations support artist fees and programming including the Vision Festival and lifetime achievement award.