Andrew Cyrille Quartet ‘The Declaration of Musical Independence’ (ECM) 3/5

andrew-cyrille-quartetDrummer Andrew Cyrille belongs to an older generation of jazz musicians who entered the scene at a time of great turbulence from a socio-political as well as musical perspective. He was best known as Cecil Taylor’s drummer for just over a decade between 1964 and 1975, but equally recorded with vibist Walt Dickerson, and earlier in his career with guitarist Eric Gale while other avant-garde collaborators included Marion Brown and Grachan Moncur III. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Cyrille recorded for independent labels of the calibre of Black Saint and Soul Note, so his debut for ECM should come as little surprise.
This latest effort features a line-up made up of guitarist Bill Frisell, double bassist Ben Street, Richard Teitelbaum on piano and synthesizers and the leader on an assortment of percussion. The music is largely experimental and has a tendency to meander at times, even on the heartfelt tribute to ECM founder and label owner, Manfred Eicher, ‘Manfred’, with bird singing and other sound effects.
One surprise is a makeover cover of Coltrane’s’, ‘Coltrane Time’, which begins with a drum roll intro, then lapses into screeching jazz-rock with Frisell at the helm. In marked contrast, a ballad composed by the guitarist, ‘Kaddish’, affords Frisell the opportunity to play sweetly in a duet with Street, and this writer would like to have heard more of this intimate chamber jazz side to the band. The group enter minimalist territory on Street’s own, ‘Say’, which is an album highlight and one in which Teitelbaum is heard on acoustic piano. Collectively, the musicians return to more experimental hues on, ‘Sanctuary’, with dissonant guitar from Frisell while the atmospheric virtually ten minutes long, ‘Perechordially yours’, is equipped with an atmosphere akin to that of sci-fi music soundtrack and where something utterly sinister is likely to happen at any moment. Recorded in Brooklyn by Rich Kwan, this album is at its strongest on the shorter, more narrowly focused pieces that average between three and four minutes whereas the longer compositions tend to end up in a proverbial cul-de-sac.

Tim Stenhouse