Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Leo Wadada Smith/Thomas Mapfumo

  • Dreams and Secrets [Anonymous Web, 2001] A-

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Dreams and Secrets [Anonymous Web, 2001]
African-American synergy, retain hyphen please, that improves simultaneously on trumpeter Smith's Yo Miles! projects with guitarist Henry Kaiser and the two solid-plus albums the chimurenga revolutionary has cut in Oregon since developing a taste for what he's proud to designate "the American way." Even with Kaiser and Woody Lee Aplanalp wailing and wahing, Smith's N'Da Kulture band can't generate the paradoxical melodies and shape-shifting rhythms of electric Miles. So Mapfumo's song-making provides welcome diversion from N'Da Kulture's straightforward postmodern r&b just when you're ready to move on to that Willie Mitchell retrospective. The mbiras and percussion devices of Mapfumo's Blacks Unlimited also jazz things up, which is fine with Smith, who's been calling jazz world music for decades. It's always been a dandy idea in theory. This is the practice. A-