Andrew Cyrille Quartet: The News (ECM 2681)

Andrew Cyrille Quartet
The News

Andrew Cyrille drums
Bill Frisell guitar
David Virelles piano, synthesizer
Ben Street double bass
Recorded August 2019 at Sound on Sound, New Jersey
Engineer: Rick Kwan
Assistant engineer: Christopher Gold
Mastering: Christoph Stickel
Cover photo: Caterina Di Perri
Produced by Sun Chung
Release date: August 27, 2021

The News convenes drummer Andrew Cyrille, guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist David Virelles, and bassist Ben Street. One would never guess the ad hoc nature of the quartet (Virelles was a last-minute substitute for Richard Teitelbaum, who bowed out over illness) in light of the cohesions that abound from note one of “Mountain.” Its compassionate declarations describe a peak of sub-equatorial verdancy. Awaiting us at the top is not snow but a clear and sunlit promontory from which to gaze upon the path we are about to follow in subsequent tracks. This is also the first of three tunes by Frisell, whose “Go Happy Lucky” is rendered as an object of dark fascination in Virelles’s pianism, leaving “Baby” to shine for its continuity. As the epitome of this band’s approach to time and space, it glistens with the purity of a virgin spring.

The title track by Cyrille dates back to the late 1970s and involves a newspaper-covered snare drum with rhizomatic touches from his bandmates. This brilliant turn hints at melody but sidesteps the commonality of expectation for the rewards of each unraveling moment. The bandleader further offers his balladic “With You in Mind,” which opens in spoken word. This sets up a late-night feeling from piano and bass, then shifts into Frisell’s meticulous speech-songs as warm organ undercurrents embody a respiration of the soul. Cyrille and Virelles detach in the improvised “Dance of the Nuances,” a delicate web of communication.

Where the pianist thinks outside the box in his playing, he shows restraint in the original “Incienso.” Along with “Leaving East of Java” (by AACM advocate Adegoke Steve Colson), it paints with flowers. In the latter, Cyrille’s cymbals work itinerant wonders as Street’s bass holds a steady watch in the background.

This production from Sun Chung (who has since left ECM to start Red Hook Records) is a masterclass in how jazz should sound when left to define a space. The recording is shaped by the languages we hear, translated out of—and back into—a universal tongue and the great equalizer of all things: nothing less than music itself.

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