With a driving guitar solo begins a startling collaboration between Wadada Leo Smith and Thomas Mapfumo. Leading their own instrumental groups, N'Da Kulture and The Blacks Unlimited, respectively, these two musicians/composers have produced an exquisite CD called DREAMS AND SECRETS.
Cross cultural in nature, the music recorded herein brightens the spirit and revivifies the soul. The voices of each musician are prevalent: Smith cries out with the brilliance of his trumpet and Mapfumo shapes his soft sung lyrics as only he can (choruses are often in the background); sometimes the trumpet and Mapfumo sing together.
It is not difficult to distinguish the influence of either musician from number to number. Smith is the predominant composer: he wrote eleven cuts. Mapfumo wrote the music and lyrics for four pieces. The CD is divided into five sections: two of them are complete in themselves and the remaining three each have "movements" which blend together, are not divisive and serve to expand the breadth of the expression of both Smith and Mapfumo.
Noticeable in all is the captivating rhythm that is not purely chimurenga based. Smith contributes switching rhythmic modes which are often the foundation for combinations of wonderful electric guitar solos, high-pitched trumpet wails and tunes from the flugelhorn that travel over the underlying musical lines like birds in flight and punching repeated bass phrases. Sometimes the music leaves me suspended and then a grounding material like the drums or the bass guitar thrust themselves into the flow and I am content again with the sobriety of the moment. The texture inherent in the mbiri weaves in and out of the extremely varied and full sound that elicits a response that makes me want to dance. The richness of the two bands playing together is incomparable. The two bands amalgamate into an orchestra. The last piece ends with a striking cadenza of repeated rhythmic phrases on the mbiri. There is nothing left but the starkness of silence.
This music is concerned with transmitting electrifying sound waves through the air. Of course, I want to be in this space. This space is about the fusion of native sounds from two different cultures. America and Zimbabwe. The recording creates a basis for the listener's involvement that goes beyond the music into a consideration of time whose finitude is indescribable yet whose passage can be delineated with musical explosiveness that is unforgettably sincere.