This is work of acute, sinuous sensitivity.
A supremely musical drummer, Andrew Cyrille once played with Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane. He later maintained close and longstanding relationships with post-bop vibist Walt Dickerson and free jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor – the former for two decades from the early sixties, the latter from the mid sixties to the mid seventies. He has since co-lead Trio 3, with Oliver Lake and Reggie Workman, while recording only selectively. Sessions in 2010 and 2012 yielded Song for a New Decade (TUM), a double CD of duos and trios with American bassist William Parker and a young Finnish saxophonist, Mikko Innanen. Now Drop Your Plans evidences further engagement with European new music. In 2013 Cyrille played a set at Jazz Middleheim festival with the curiously named Bambi Pang Pang, and they recorded Drop Your Plans soon after.
Bambi Pang Pang is a trio offshoot of Belgian improv collective Ifa y Xango, whose albums Abraham (2012) and twice left handed \\ shavings (2013) blend free improvisation with more trance-y and groove-oriented music. On Drop Your Plans, with Cyrille unlocking time, the trio prove to be exceptionally adept at the fine balance of fragility and intensity, crisp articulation and expressivity that characterises the best of modern jazz.
All four players contribute compositions, but four of the eleven pieces here are by pianist Seppe Gebruers, who is described in press notes as “the joker. A guy with a frail physique that belies his turbulent energy”. Viktor Perdieus (sax) and Laurens Smet (bass) contribute one number apiece, and there’s a fresh take on Cyrille’s “Dr. Licks”. Cyrille also improvises a solo piece, and two brief collective improvisations round out the set.
While the album opener, Perdieus’ “Isme” has a languid, smoky, after hours supperclub vibe, Gebruers’ “Fuks” is mettlesome and rhythmically insistent. Named after a character in Cosmos (1965), a novel by Witold Gombrowicz, it’s taken as a framework for the quartet to explore the book’s themes of fragmentation and abstraction in sound. Two more pieces by Gebruers follow: the limpid and darkly introspective “Frases”, and “Sum”, an austere duet for piano and drums.
On the first improvised piece, “Threescore and Fourteen”, the quartet square up against each another while maintaining distance. It’s only 72 seconds long, an exercise in concision and differentiation. “Dr. Licks” couldn’t be more different. A piece that originally appeared on Anthony Braxton/Andrew Cyrille Duo Palindrome 2002, it’s a gutsy, bouncy number with a muscular bass pulse, splashily rolling drums and emphatic pianism. Perdieus starts out lyrical, then ranges from impassioned to tonally anguished. It’s a good workout for all concerned.
The following “Bottle of Drums” has Cyrille solo, playfully meshing exploratory rim taps and sticks clicks with only sporadic bass drum punctuation, a matrix that subsequent snare and tom rolls develop into a platform for a spartan, rigorous series of martial detonations.
Gebruers’ “Border/Grens” is a Jarrett-esque piano trio number with off-mic mutterings that avoids pastiche by dint of real sensitivity. The pianist then plays preparations and quicksilver keys on the second improvised piece, the turbulent “Ready Set”. Both of these pieces are wrapped up in under three minutes; indeed it’s an altogether lean and flab-free session.
That just leaves the title piece, Smet’s “Drop Your Plans”, which achieves and sustains a ravishing stillness behind a Perdieus soliloquy, and a brief recap of “Isme” which subverts the mood of the first piece with off-kilter pianism, and wraps unexpectedly short.
While the quartet essay nothing particularly radical on this album, it proves to be disconcerting, invigorating and beguiling by turns. Cyrille and the Bambi’s get the balance of sinuosity and seduction just right.
Andrew Cyrille drums; Seppe Gebruers piano; Viktor Perdieus saxophones; Laurens Smet bass.