In its 80-year history, the Village Vanguard has had its share of legendary shows and, because of its intimacy, extended gigs and knowledgeable audience, has been the place for a large number of live recordings, including most recently, Enrico Pieranunzi's New Spring.
While Proximity is not a live recording, the impetus for the recording happened at the Vanguard, when regular patron Max Koslow heard saxophonist Bill McHenry and free drummer Andrew Cyrille perform as a duo. The magical feeling that can happen in jazz was so strong that Koslow asked to record them, and here we are.
Recorded over two days, the session is very atmospheric and concentrated. Much of this is due to the overall sounds which Cyrille chose for each track. This is not busy drumming, for there is lots of room created through the use of tom- toms of different pitches, very little snare or cymbals and the use of light sticks or mallets. The sound is wide and large, rather than sharp and concentrated, but this diffuse sound paradoxically is highly focused. It is easy to hear what so moved Koslow in the club. McHenry plays off of this surrounding sound, and keeps on the thinner side even when blowing fast lines.
The first track, "Bedouin Woman" is positively eerie, but the mood is offset Don Moye's "Fabula" which lightly dances. "Drum Song For Leadbelly" is an adaptation of "Green Corn" by Huddie Ledbetter which manages to evoke the fields of the South. Muhal Richard Abrams' "Drum Man Cyrille" features a very interesting conversation between Cyrille and McHenry and is perhaps the busiest saxophone track.
The title tune features a rather plaintive McHenry with brushes by Cyrille echoing McHenry's breath. In "Aquatic Life" Cyrille begins with light taps to accompany McHenry, but then becomes a second voice, producing the busiest drum playing thus far. "Seasons" is the longest track and features a high, light line by McHenry supported by high-pitched tom-toms and pointed cymbal splashes.
The rather sparse music of Proximity is nonetheless captivating and actually a very emotional experience that feels to be almost like being there.
Bedouin Woman; Fabula; Drum Song for Leadbelly; Drum Man Cyrille; Proximity;
Let Me Tell You This; Broken Heart; Aquatic Life; Double Dutch; Seasons; Dervish;
To Be Continued…
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.