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Andrew Cyrille: Lebroba — master of rhythm and space

Andrew Cyrille: Lebroba — master of rhythm and space

December 27
21:00 2018

As on his previous album for ECM, The Declaration of Musical Independence, drummer Andrew Cyrille distils a lifetime’s experience into a network of sparse thumps, lopsided rolls and pinpoint pings. Here, they mesh declamatory statements from Wadada Leo Smith’s trumpet and the resonance of Bill Frisell’s guitar into a pulsating, precisely crafted soundscape. “I wanted to play rhythms with spaces between them”, Cyrille says on the CD sleeve notes, referring to his playing behind the angular trumpet and guitar elegy that climaxes the album’s lengthy set-piece track. But he could have been talking about his approach to the album as whole.

Cyrille started out playing snare in his Brooklyn-neighbourhood drum and bugle corps, quickly graduating to jazz — “there were other ways of playing the drums than hitting a street beat” — and started touring in 1959, aged 20, with cabaret/blues singer Nellie Lutcher. A decade on, he had developed the rhythmic independence and multi-timed pulse to fuel pianist Cecil Taylor’s expressionist fury. But now he strips the barrage of rolls and splashes down to their essence and they surface only on “TGD”, this album’s single group-improvised track.

The set opens with the atmospheric twangs, positive sustains and anxious percussion of Frisell’s “Worried Woman”. Smith’s “Turiya: Alice Coltrane Meditations and Dreams: Love” follows, a complex structure mixing graphic score, written composition, open interpretation and signposted improvisation — “a limping rhythm starting with a boom-chick” one directive, “west African 6/8 going into a 7/4 blues shuffle” another. As the piece unfolds, blasts of trumpet subside into muted lyricism, elliptic rhythms fragment into spacious booms and Frisell references the blues.

Cyrille’s two compositions are equally gripping. The eight-bar blues “Lebroba”, named after the first two letters of the birthplaces of the musicians (Smith/Leland Mississippi; Cyrille/Brooklyn; Frisell/Baltimore) celebrates the trio’s accord with vibrating textures and hints of a shuffle. The delicate “Pretty Beauty” features beatific Frisell, Smith’s poised muted trumpet and the swish of brushes.


Lebroba’ is released by ECM

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