Andrew Cyrille / Bill Frisell / Wadada Leo Smith

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Lebroba Review

by Thom Jurek

Lebroba, Andrew Cyrille's second leader date for ECM, finds the septuagenarian rhythm explorer trading in all but guitarist Bill Frisell from the quartet that recorded 2016's fine The Declaration of Musical Independence (with bassist Ben Street and pianist Richard Teitelbaum). This bass-less trio also features trumpeter/composer Wadada Leo Smith. While this setting is somewhat unusual, Frisell is quite familiar with it, performing in this same setting on Ron Miles' 2014 offering Circuit Rider. Back in 2010, the guitarist led another unusual trio for Beautiful Dreamers with sidemen Eyvind Kang on viola and Rudy Royston on drums.

In fact, this set's opener is a redo of the guitarist's "Worried Woman," from the latter album, a lithe charmer of a melody wherein Frisell envelops himself in a call-and-response conversation on the lyric with Smith's as Cyrille colors time around the beat rather than on it. The longest piece here is Smith's nearly formless "Turiya: Alice Coltrane Meditations and Dreams: Love" at over 17 minutes. The tune is mostly "free," though the trumpeter, in true signature fashion, sketches out spaces for emphasis on dialogic exchanges that evolve from melodic fragments to dissonance and back again, with Cyrille's colorful, textured rhythmic pulses bridging the gap between frontline players. Despite the fragmented nature of the piece, the intuitive interplay between the trio's members is canny, welcoming, and thoroughly enjoyable. Cyrille's title track is based on an eight-bar blues, but it's a chameleon-like work. There are lyric aspects that recall Charles Mingus' "Good-Bye Pork Pie Hat," but Smith's soulful, muted trumpet abstractions -- ever the picture of tasteful economy -- highlight and underscore Frisell's turnarounds and expressionist reflections of deep blue Americana from the Delta to Chicago. The five-plus-minute "TGD" is credited to the group, commencing with Cyrille's dancing snares and whispering cymbals through Frisell's effects-laden soloing and sonic smears and fills and Smith's interrogatory improvisation above and around the paying of his bandmates. The only complaint is that given the nearly symbiotic nature of communication in this improvisation, the track doesn’t go on long enough. The juxtaposition of Frisell's subtly shaded chordal voicings and long single notes by Smith in the intro to the drummer's closing rubato ballad, "Pretty Beauty," are breathtakingly poignant. Cyrille's hushed and spacious use of brushes around the lyric line, highlight its dips and subtle assertions, which are exchanged by guitarist and trumpeter to create an achingly beautiful groupspeak that seemingly creates a narrative language from air. While much of Lebroba is gentle, none of it is nebulous or speculative. This trio engages in the kind of magical interplay that only extremely experienced players can conjure.

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