- Phil Freeman
Andrew Cyrille is the last man standing from the first wave of free jazz drummers. He and Milford Graves, Sunny Murray, and Rashied Ali really revolutionized jazz rhythm in their playing with Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, John Coltrane and other musicians in the early to mid ’60s. Their influence was huge, and each of them brought a different perspective and instantly identifiable style to the music. What I hear when I listen to Andrew Cyrille, whether he’s playing with Cecil Taylor or Anthony Braxton or in any other situation, is an incredible precision and consideration. He really seems to be thinking about every single strike and placing it with unbelievable care, even when he’s playing ridiculously fast.
In the last few years, Cyrille has been making some really interesting records as a leader for ECM. He started in 2016 with The Declaration of Musical Independence, which featured Bill Frisell on guitar, Richard Teitelbaum on synth, and Ben Street on bass, then he made Lebroba with Frisell and Wadada Leo Smith, and now he’s got a new album out, The News, which features Frisell and Street again but has David Virelles on piano instead of Teitelbaum. And right before that string of records, in 2015, he was on guitarist Ben Monder’s album Amorphae. And I also want to mention a record he did in 2017, Dione, a trio record with Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp. He’s had an incredible career as a sideman, too, working with David Murray, Leroy Jenkins, Muhal Richard Abrams, Marion Brown, Horace Tapscott, Peter Brötzmann, and of course he’s also one of the members of Trio 3 with Oliver Lake and Reggie Workman — they played at the 2021 Vision Festival, where he also presented a solo tribute to Milford Graves.
We talk about Graves a lot in this interview, as well as Cyrille’s approach to rhythm and to music generally, and a lot of other things. It’s funny, the conversation has kind of a false ending, because I had been told by his publicist that he only wanted to talk for a half hour, and I negotiated us up to 45 minutes, and then at the 45 minute mark I started saying goodbye and thanking him for his time, and he showed no interest in stopping, so we kept going and probably could have talked for another half hour.
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Music featured in this episode:
Andrew Cyrille/Wadada Leo Smith/Bill Frisell, “Worried Woman” (Lebroba)
Andrew Cyrille, “Go Happy Lucky” (The News)