SnakishWadada Leo Smith, Walter Quintus, Katya Quintus, Miroslav Tadic & Mark NauseefCD14
Leo Records (British label, Russian jazz etc)CD LR 4355024792043521


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It's been a good couple of years for trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, whose involvement with the Yo! Miles project, Spring Heel Jackand his own Golden Quartet has seen him return to the public ear after years of lower key projects.

Smith rates this particular project as one of his favourites, and it's easy to see why. While the Yo Miles! project paid an explicit homage to 70s Miles Davis, 'Snakish' imagines how that music may have sounded if Miles had been more influenced by Stockhausen than Sly Stone or Jimi Hendrix.

This isn't just Smith's baby though; it's a collective effort from percussionist/electronicist Mark Nauseef, guitarist Miroslav Tadic and most crucially, engineer Walter Quintus. His processing places the trio's realtime playing in impossible acoustic environments; one moment in deep space, the next at the bottom of a sulphurous alien sea. Tadic's spidery acoustic guitar sits halfway between John McLaughlin and Derek Bailey; his chords are pretty in a sour kind of way, and are the perfect ground for Smith's glowing, lyrical flights.

While both Tadic and Smith veer off into free improv fluttering and at times, Nauseef's spluttering, primitive electronics provide the most abstraction. Spirals of white, pink and brown noise fleck the soundscape. Bells, chimes, rustles, clicks and cavernous thumps replace grooves. Quintus' processing acts as a kind of aural zoom lens, shifting focus from one element to another. Occasional spoken interventions from Katya Quintus (sometimes in English, sometimes not) add to the hallucinatory atmosphere.

Leo records boss Leo Feigin reckons this album will take its place as one of the best in the label's catalogue. That's a pretty big statement given the brilliance and scope of much of Leo's output, but I reckon it'll hold true. 'Snakish' is a seductive, involving listen for devotees of everyone from Supersilent to Miles to Evan Parker's electro-acoustic work. Great stuff.