Two New Records Showcase The Range Of Jazz Drummer Andrew Cyrille

Oct 3, 2016
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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Andrew Cyrille is a particularly versatile jazz drummer who came up swinging behind Coleman Hawkins and Mary Lou Williams and then played free jazz with Cecil Taylor. Cyrille has led his own bands and percussion ensembles and has explored the rhythms of Haiti and played in duos that blur the sound of drums and electronics. Andrew Cyrille has two new albums out. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW CYRILLE QUARTET COMPOSITION, "FABULA")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Andrew Cyrille with tenor saxophone Bill McHenry from their duo album "Proximity." The drummer contains multitudes and two contrasting new records on different labels only hint at his range. "Proximity" is all about the drums and their melodic potential, and we'll get back to it. Cyrille's other album, for quartet, is more about atmospheres and soundscapes where you can't always tell who's playing what. That record's called "The Declaration Of Musical Independence."

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW CYRILLE QUARTET COMPOSITION, "DAZZLING (PERCHORDALLY YOURS)")

WHITEHEAD: The key player on Andrew Cyrille's album "The Declaration Of Musical Independence" is Richard Teitelbaum on electronics. He and Cyrille had been crossing paths since the '70s. And the drummer loves matching his sound to Teitelbaum's synthesizer and manipulated samples. Guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Ben Street also know about mutable sound. And the players may dive into those ambling atmospherics even where the drums provide more definition and direction.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW CYRILLE QUARTET COMPOSITION, "COLTRANE TIME")

WHITEHEAD: John Coltrane's tune "Coltrane Time," which he never recorded. In those rare moments when Andrew Cyrille's quartet plays in tempo, his drums are very much part of the conversation, not the backdrop for it. The liveliest tone is Richard Teitelbaum's tumbling "Herky Jerky," with the composer on piano.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW CYRILLE QUARTET COMPOSITION, "HERKY JERKY")

WHITEHEAD: Andrew Cyrille is such a team player on his quartet album, he can leave you wanting more drums. And for that, there's the duo record "Proximity," where his trap set is fully exposed and saxophonist Bill McHenry doesn't get between it and us. Cyrille's tour de force is his drum-set version of Leadbelly's dance ditty "Green Corn." The clackety playing on the rims harks back to early jazz great Baby Dodds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW CYRILLE AND BILL MCHENRY COMPOSITION, "DRUM SONG FOR LEADBELLY")

WHITEHEAD: In a way, Andrew Cyrille's new albums are two sides of the same coin. Drummers are concerned with tambour, as well as rhythm with the sounds and textures the drum kit can make. Cyrille's diverse new records just emphasize different aspects of the methods and materials he uses every time he sits to make music at the drums.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDEW CYRILLE AND BILL MCHENRY COMPOSITION, "BEDOUIN WOMAN")

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and TONEAudio and is the author of "Why Jazz?" After we take a short break, Maureen Corrigan will review a new novel by Emma Donoghue, who wrote "Room," which was adapted into a film last year starring Brie Larson. This is FRESH AIR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.