Andrew Cyrille ‘Lebroba’ LP/CD (ECM) 4/5

While not prolific as a leader, drummer Andrew Cyrille has nonetheless carved out a name for himself as a musician with the AACM of Chicago and recorded on an early 1970s ECM album, namely, ‘Afternoon of a Georgian Faun’, from 1971, that featured Anthony Braxton and Cyrille. The new trio recording in fact follows up on the 2016 album for ECM, ‘The declaration of musical independence’, that included a slightly varied line-up of Bill Frisell on guitar, Ben Street on acoustic bass and Richard Teitelbaum on improvised electronics. For the latest offering, Frisell is retained, but Wadada Leo Smith takes over on trumpet. As one might expect of this formation, the music is dense and ethereal, but definitely not inaccessible. A personal favourite number is the title track, which has an intro motif similar to Mingus’, ‘Pork Pie Hat’, and the gentle guitar musings of Frisell are met with some delicate drum licks from the leader, while Wadada Smith is content to remain largely in the background on muted Harmon. The balance between the trio oscillates depending on the track in question, but the laid back groove adopted on this piece suits the trio to perfection. A pity there is not more in this vein on the just over forty-two minutes of music. Miles Davis is evoked on Cyrille’s own composition, ‘Pretty Beauty’, with the deft use of cymbals and again muted Harmon that operate effectively together.

Early on in Andrew Cyrille’s career, he counted among his childhood influences two local musicians in Les Abrams and especially, Max Roach. As he matured, that range extended to drummers of the calibre of Art Blakey and Philly Joe Jones. However, what further influenced the musical outlook of Cyrille was listening to piano less quartets, most notably the 1950s pairing of Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan. That latter influence can be heard on the number, ‘Worried Woman’, a Frisell-penned number, which has something of rambling opening with a repetitive guitar riff, before a crescendo is heard on the drum rolls, while Wadada Smith positively soars on trumpet. Pride of place on the album, however, goes to the epic, seventeen and a half minutes tribute to the late Alice Coltrane’, ‘Turiya: Alice Coltrane meditations and dreams: love’. This has a distinctive downtempo groove taken at 4/4 and then morphing into a more vibrant and West African influenced 6/8 tempo, with guitar and trumpet in tandem. The homage was inspired by a single meeting between Cyrille and Coltrane when the latter attended the Cal Arts where she was due to receive an honorary doctorate. Wadada had been teaching at the institution at the time and the duo struck up an immediate connection.

ECM, as it reaches a ripe old age, has once again broken its traditional minimalist sleeve detail policy (and rightly so) to include eight pages of sleeve notes on Andrew Cyrille. Special mention must be made of the stunning cover photo that owes part of its influence to the paintings of Jackson Pollock. The vibrant red, gray and black kaleidoscope of colours was created by Juan Hitters.

Tim Stenhouse