From left to right: Mike Reed, Wadada Leo Smith, and Douglas R. Ewart make music together. Credit: Michael Jackson

Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has made recordings over the past decade that celebrate uplifting movements, such as the Occupy protests and the civil rights struggle, and great jazz musicians, including Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. At first glance Sun Beans of Shimmering Light, a six-year-old concert recording of a group that played just a handful of times between 2012 and 2015, appears more modest. But in fact, it synthesizes and embodies those two themes. During the 1960s, Smith was an early member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, an organization formed to bolster collective efforts by Black artists to promote creativity and enable survival in the face of hostile social and market forces. Five and a half decades later, the AACM remains a vital force in the city’s musical landscape and a model for artistic self-sufficiency. The other two members of this trio, woodwind player Douglas Ewart and drummer Mike Reed, have both served in the organization, and their jointly composed music on this album exemplifies the ethic and style of the AACM. “Constellations and Conjunctional Spaces,” named in part for Reed’s concert venue, opens the record with sparse, confident gestures. Smith’s trumpet switches between pure tones and distressed timbres, revealing the beauty of both; Ewart’s bassoon and sopranino saxophone evoke an air of ritual solemnity; and Reed’s drumming emphasizes color over timekeeping. And in “Super Moon Rising,” handheld percussion reminiscent of the “little instruments” most famously used by the Art Ensemble of Chicago connects the music to centuries of prejazz practice. But Sun Beans of Shimmering Light isn’t just a re-creation of old ways of working; its music, by turns serene and intense, affirms their worth.   v