Andrew Cyrille Quartet: The News review – rolling coverage from octogenarian jazz hero

(ECM)
The 81-year-old drummer deploys crisp cymbals, hushed snares and even brushes on newspaper for this entrancing set alongside Bill Frisell, Ben Street and David Virelles

It would be tempting to say that, at 81, Andrew Cyrille has probably forgotten more than most drummers have ever learned about stretching tempo and creating space for improvisers to thrive in – that is, if it didn’t do such a disservice to the Haitian-American master’s respect for his fellow players. Over six decades with stars from swing-sax pioneer Coleman Hawkins to Carla Bley and uncompromising piano virtuoso Cecil Taylor, Cyrille has learned all about jazz’s rich complexities – and then sought to distil them into ever simpler essentials in projects of his own.

Artwork for The News
Artwork for The News Photograph: PR handout

The News is a follow-up to Cyrille’s sonically subtle quartet album The Declaration of Musical Independence from 2016, but with imaginative Cuban New Yorker David Virelles joining guitarist Bill Frisell and double bassist Ben Street on keys. Cyrille’s hidden-hand presence is glimpsed in taps, ticks and quietly crisp cymbal grooves, hushed snare rolls and offbeat accents – and the whisper of brushes on a newspaper spread over the drumheads on the title track. Frisell’s delicious country-chiming Mountain has its chord melody and luminous harmonics slowly dissolved into Virelles’ darkening low tones. Leaving East of Jordan develops a walking groove and then a Spanish tinge after its slowly anthemic opening, and Go Happy Lucky (one of three very songlike Frisell tunes) is a dissonant blues. The brushes-on-paper title track turns from caustic free-improv pluckings to fluid trills and ambient hums, while With You in Mind – introduced by the leader’s sonorous spoken-word recitation – confirms this unusual band’s slow-burn lyricism. Quiet, this News may be – but it’s right up there among ECM Records’ entrancing understatements.

Also out this month

The 10-year-old Berlin-founded jazz/rock/punk/electronica quartet Kuu! take no prisoners with Artificial Sheep (ACT), on which Serbia-born singer Jelena Kuljić, two blistering electric guitarists, and brilliant free-jazz/avant-rock drummer Christian Lillinger grippingly churn through fast improv, snarlingly punky vocals, Arcade Fire and Beastie Boys covers, and intimately ghostly ballads. New York drummer/composer Donald Edwards, a musician steeped in southlands soul/blues, hip early-Miles swing and the fiery hard-bop of Art Blakey, warps straight-ahead horn grooving with the raw guitar sound of David Gilmore and a little urgent preacherly vocalising on The Colour of Us Suite (Criss Cross Jazz). And fine former Miles Davis saxophonist Kenny Garrett, a blender of soul-sax partying and John Coltrane’s spirituality, releases a characteristic mix of hot riffing, neo-soul and post-bop with added brass, vocals and Cuban percussion on Sounds from the Ancestors (Mack Avenue).

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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