Central Park’s Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens
Release Date: May 10, 2024
Label: Red Hook Records

Central Park’s Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens, is a remarkable convergence of two kindred musical spirits - trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith and newly minted NEA Jazz Master pianist and organist Amina Claudine Myers. This extraordinary collaboration marks the master musicians’ first recorded collaboration and their first involvement since their early years as key members of the iconic Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Central Park serves as a testament to the enduring power of artistic connection and the evolution of musical mastery.

On Central Park’s Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths, and Gardens, the duo paint scenes and conjure landscapes with the musical sound fields created by Smith’s supple horn and Myers’ fervent piano and organ. With pieces deriving inspiration from Central Park’s many natural splendors, the album strikes tones of wistfulness, longing, awe, discord, and peace. Central Park has a considered quality, a slowness that both gives it depth and is evidence of the gravity of its makers. The album is marked by the convergence of two iconic sounds and an intentionality of texture created between their two instruments and the sonority fully encompassed by their individual musical refrains and the space between. 

Left to their own devices, Smith and Myers, both hailing from the South before finding their artistic homes in Chicago, discovered a profound gravitational pull drawing them back together. Their shared history as key first-wave members of the AACM laid the groundwork for a friendship and creative partnership that spans over half a century. The AACM is a pioneering collective of musicians dedicated to the promotion and advancement of creative improvisation and experimental music. Founded in Chicago in the 1960s, the organization has served as a catalyst for innovation and collaboration within the jazz and avant-garde music communities.

Myers, who famously appeared in the second AACM concert, with Philip Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble at the South Shore Ballroom in 1966, preceded Smith by a year or so.  While he was studying at the Sherwood Music School at the Fine Arts Building in the Loop, Smith became active in the AACM, where he grew into one of its most important philosophers and composers; like many AACMers, he spent a period in Europe before moving to Connecticut and California, sharing his own version of concepts germinated in the AACM.  

In 2015, nearly fifty years after their initial encounter, Smith penned the poignant composition "Amina Claudine Myers" as a tribute to his esteemed colleague, and recorded the composition with his Great Lakes Quartet and as a solo trumpet piece. Smith’s homage to his fellow AACM member and musical counterpart, Myers, sets the stage for the mesmerizing journey that unfolds in Central Park.

The album emanates a deliberate, contemplative quality, inviting listeners to immerse themselves in its rich sonic tapestry. Myers' masterful piano work, showcased prominently throughout the album, guides the listener through a series of elegant, introspective episodes, each imbued with a sense of profound depth and emotional resonance. Smith's trumpet, with its radiant tones and illuminating presence, serves as a beacon of hope and upliftment. 

As Central Park unfolds, it becomes evident that Smith and Myers possess an unparalleled capacity for connection and expression. Their collaborative effort serves as a master class in inventive exchange, offering listeners a glimpse into the boundless potential of artistic partnership. From Myers’ opening notes on “Conservatory Gardens,” in which she gradually spells out harmonic terrain, the program unfolds as a series of elegant, sometimes elegiac, episodes.  A tributary of trust.  A delta of decisiveness.  A slow-moving stream of sensitivity. 

The album continues with “Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir”, with a regal quality, Myers on the B3 organ, and Smith with a muted trumpet - the duo pays their homage to the central defining landmark of Central Park, its main body of water. A perfect complement, on the solo piano piece “When Was”, penned by Myers, Myers shows her nimble-fingered jubilance, also in her cool organ sound, as buoyant as a life raft, keeping listeners safely above turbulent water.

The Harlem Meer” strikes a relaxed chord with wistful undertones - reflecting the body of water in the northeast corner of Central Park - a place for relaxation and reflection where park-dwellers can often be found observing wildlife, picnicking, and fishing. The album's closing tributes to Albert Ayler and John Lennon further underscore the artists' commitment to peace and social justice, infusing the music with a transcendent sense of purpose.

In a world where connections often fray and fade, Central Park’s Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths, and Gardens stand as a testament to the enduring power of musical kinship. Through their shared journey, Wadada Leo Smith and Amina Claudine Myers invite listeners to rediscover the beauty of human connection and the transformative power of creative expression.

Central Park is the latest release from the adventurous Red Hook Records, which was founded in 2020 by Sun Chung after a decade-long tenure at ECM. "It was a rare privilege to be able to work with these two masters. Even more so as the results are stunning. The music on this album reaches depths only attainable through a lifetime of dedication to the arts,” he reflects. This album follows the critically-acclaimed trio record Refract, by BlankFor.ms, Jason Moran, and Marcus Gilmore, and Two Centuries, the first Red Hook collaboration with Wadada Leo Smith, which featured Qasim Naqvi and Andrew Cyrille.

THIERRY DE CLEMENSAT
PARIS MOVE
"Imagine the emotional impact such a duo can produce; here, we sit and listen attentively, ready to embark on a uniquely sublime musical adventure." Check out the full review here.

ROB SHEPHERD
POST GENRE
"Ultimately, with Central Park’s Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens, Smith and Myers invite the listener to find a park of their own, whether physically or metaphorically."Check out the full interview here.

KARL ACKERMANN
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"...a superb album from start to finish." Read the review here.

MIKE JURKOVIC
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Though the program is barely thirty-eight minutes long, Smith's haunting voice rides freely about Myers thoughtful jubilance." Check out the full review here.

MIKE GATES
UK VIBE
"With seven tracks deriving inspiration from Central Park’s many natural splendours, the album strikes tones of wistfulness, longing, awe, discord and peace." Check out the full review here.

JON TURNEY
LONDON JAZZ NEWS
"This late contribution, from two players who bring lifetimes of experience to bear on simple materials to work up some marvellous joint creations, uses space and silence with rare skill to craft a worthy addition to the list." Check out the full review here.

FILIPE FREITAS
JAZZ TRAIL
"Smith and Myers convey a sense of longing with sheer emotion and profound depth while making intelligent use of their instruments. This is a light-emitting album to be revisited many times in the future." Check out the full review here.

MATT MICUCCI
JAZZIZ
Check out this editor's playlist selection here.

NATE CHINEN
THE GIG
"Tyshawn mentioned his chance encounter with Wadada last week. My own version of that fortuitous timing: I’ve recently been digging the first duo collaboration between Wadada Leo Smith (on trumpet) and Amina Claudine Myers, one of our newly minted NEA Jazz Masters (on piano and organ). " Check out the full review here.

JOHN FORDHAM
THE GUARDIAN
"Tranquillity and playfulness mingle in Conservatory Gardens, after long, quivering trumpet tones turn to bright trills, embraced by rich low-end piano chords and glittering treble scampers; the solo piano piece When Was implies a ghostly singer humming over its underlying hymnal harmonies. " Check out the full review here.

EDITOR
QOBUZ
" There are echoes of classical music here, with rippling impressionism marked by moments of dramatic insistence. And it's quietly gripping when Myers lets notes hang in the air, highlighting the beauty of sonic decay." Check out the full review here.

RUSSELL TRUNK
EXCLUSIVE MAGAZINE
"This extraordinary collaboration marks the master musicians’ first recorded collaboration, resulting in one of the most anticipated releases of the year." Check out the full review here.

JIM HYNES
MAKING A SCENE
"The deep concentration of both players unspools at a purposely slow pace that amplifies the textures and depth of feeling. Its quiet intensity is spellbinding." Check out the full review here.

STEPHEN GRAHAM
MARLBANK
"Wadada is at his bluesiest and most fundamental on his homage to Albert Ayler and the muted John Lennon meditation at the end is a perfect way to conclude an album of intricate diaphonous mood and feeling." Check out the full review here.

KEVIN WHITEHEAD
AUDIO BEAT
"The measured cadences of kickoff “Conservatory Gardens” set the tone. Smith’s open-horn sound is gorgeous in a weathered way, and he’s never in a hurry, lingering over his variable but contained voice-like vibrato." Check out the full review here.

PHIL FREEMAN
STEREOGUM 
"When Smith’s horn comes in, though, his tone is rich and full, more romantic and soulful than in some other contexts." Check out the full review here.

BRETT CALLWOOD
MUSIC COLLECTION
"Dear lord, this album is stunning. Whether you're a dedicated jazz head or a casual listener, it's hard to ignore the delicate, deliberate, minimalist approach to jazz that masters-of-their-craft Wadada Leo Smith and Amina Claudine Myers employ here." Check out the full review here.

ALEX DUTILH
RADIO FRANCE
"Their collaboration is a masterclass in inventive exchange, offering listeners a glimpse into the limitless potential of an artistic partnership." Check out the full review in French here.

KRZYSZTOF KOMOREK
CULTURAL DENUNCIATION
Check out this feature on the editor's playlist here.

MIKE HOBART
FINANCIAL TIMES
"Titled Central Park’s Mosaic of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens, the album hints at autumnal shades and rippling water, but its core interest lies in the ruminations they inspire. The result is a record of slowly unfolding pleasures and subtly changing moods." Check out the full review here.

DEE DEE McNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS
"Together they paint nature scenes and conjure up landscapes with their musical merging, along with rich, spiritual sound fields." Check out the full review here.

BILL SHOEMAKER
POINT OF DEPARTURE 
"Their mastery creates an experience where the listener is drawn deeper and deeper into verdant soundscapes, but remains alert to every petal, each drop of dew, and the dance of light and shadow created by foliage in a gentle breeze. This is no ordinary walk in the park." Check out the full review here.

KURT GOTTSCHALK
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"Named not for a musical conservatory but for a greenhouse that once stood there, the piece begins with a slowly unfolding piano figure, not so unlike a flower bud opening before being hit by a bright ray from Smith’s golden trumpet. " Check out the full review here.

Burak Sülünbaz
DARK BLUE NOTES
"Two musicians with this common heritage, starting from nearby lands, create a unique musical unity with the creative partnership they built on their friends of nearly half a century." Check out the full review here.

ANDREW CLEMENTS
THE GUARDIAN
"Smith’s piercing yet tender trumpet tone remains inimitably his, while Myers sensitively counterpoints him with sober chords and sudden wing-flurries of melody." Check out the editor's best of 2024 so far list here.

DAVE SUMNER
BANDCAMP
"Framing their pieces around facets of New York’s Central Park, the duo all but lifts you up and shepherds you along its paths." Check out the full review here.

PHIL FREEMAN
OSIRIS PODCAST
Check out this insightful interview here.

FRED KAPLAN
TRACKING ANGLE
"There’s adventure in this music, but there’s also melody and mood; it’s accessible at every level that you want to probe, and there’s plenty of layers here, more than there seem to be at first listen." Check out the full review here.

RICHARD WILLIAMS
THE BLUE MOMENT BLOG
" ... at the midpoint of the album she gets five minutes to herself for a solo called “When Was”, the piano ringing with echoes of hymns and ragtime airs until she gathers them up and and shakes them out in a terse, pounding finale." Check out the full review here.

GIUSEPPE SEGALA
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"In the intense, fertile, enchanted relationship between instant and form lies the beauty of this music, which ends with two moments of maximum empathy between the musicians..." Check out the full review in French here.

PHIL FREEMAN
THE WIRE
"It's a meditative but extroverted performance, radiating love into the world with infinite patience." Check out the full review here.

AMMAR KALIA
DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE
"Uncomplicated and unadorned, this is an album of immersive and expressive feeling, showcasing two late-career masters who still wield immense power. " Check out the full review here.