Andrew Cyrille Quartet: The Declaration of Musical Independence

Mark Sullivan By

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Drummer Andrew Cyrille is probably best known for his long association with the avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor. He has previously appeared on ECM and Watt albums by saxophonist Marion Brown (Afternoon of a Georgia Faun, 1970), Carla Bley (European Tour 1977, 1978), The Jazz Composer's Orchestra (originally on JCOA, 1968), and most recently on Ben Monder's Amorphae (2016). He makes his ECM leader debut here with this quartet with guitarist Bill Frisell, keyboardist Richard Teitelbaum and bassist Ben Street.

This album is the first time the quartet came together as a unit, but they have history. Cyrille and Frisell played on a session led by Danish guitarist Jakob Bro; the drummer has recorded three albums with Street as part of Danish pianist Soren Kjaergaard's trio; and his association with synthesist Teitelbaum goes back to the 1970s. Teitelabaum is best known for live electronic music and synthesizer performance; he was a founding member of the seminal Italian group Musica Elettronica Viva. The opening track is an abstract version of John Coltrane's "Coltrane Time," a direct reference to Cyrille's long career as an avant-garde jazz drummer. The solo drum introduction uses a rhythm he learned from drummer Rashied Ali, who learned it from Coltrane himself. After the rest of the group enters they quickly put their own stamp on it.

In addition to three collective improvisations, the rest of the program includes compositions from all of Cyrille's band mates. Frisell has the most compositional input, with three pieces. "Kaddish" and "Begin" both center on his guitar, the first of them with synthesizer commentary and very gentle, almost ambient bass and drums. "Song For Andrew No. 1" was presumably written for this session. Frisell uses his electronic bag of tricks in conversation with the whole group. Street's "Say" is an atmospheric exploration of a simple repeated chord progression, played by Teitelbaum on the piano. Teitelbaum has some history of composing for the piano, but this is the first time I can recall hearing him play one. Here he provides the foundation, as the guitar plays the head and Cyrille sticks to brushes. "Dazzling (Perchordally Yours)" opens with gong and chattering percussion. Teitelbaum is heard on piano again, but in an atmospheric role. His own "Herky Jerky" begins with Frisell's guitar, but he joins in on piano, this time as an active, two-handed player who spars with the guitar.

ECM head Manfred Eicher did not produce this album, leaving that role to Sun Chung (who also produced Amorphae). But his spirit is still invoked in the final group improvisation "Manfred." Monder's Amorphae does have some kinship with this session—especially the tracks featuring Cyrille and synthesist Pete Rende—although it is far more atmospheric than most of the music here. In addition to his compositional input, Frisell's guitar functions as both the primary harmonic and melodic instrument. So there's a lot here for fans of the more experimental Frisell, along with anyone who appreciates a lively improvisational group.

Track Listing: Coltrane Time; Kaddish; Sanctuary; Say; Dazzling (Percchordally Yours); Herky Jerky; Begin; Manfred; Song For Andrew No. 1.

Personnel: Andrew Cyrille: drums, percussion; Bill Frisell: guitar; Richard Teitelbaum: synthesizer, piano; Ben Street: double-bass.

Title: The Declaration Of Musical Independence | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: ECM Records

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