To experience ecstasy without the memory of it would certainly be a travesty. Fortunately it may now be possible to have both; to have the near-perfect memory of being in the throes of ecstasy and it is all because of the music on Route de Frères by Andrew Cyrille and Haitian Fascination. More specifically it is the character of “Jean” in the miraculous little Vodou piece, which opens the album. It is the relentless and remarkable tapping of both percussionists Frisner Augustin and the great Andrew Cyrille that creates a completely out-of-body experience as if it was part of the Vodou ritual where the song is usually sung. This is just one of the high points of listening to the album, which experience—were it to be charted—might look like a printout of a rapidly beating heart in an electro-cardiogram actually. Most of Cyrille’s work might have this effect, but this album is truly extraordinary. It charts the musical sojourn of the drummer as he returns to his roots in Haiti and, metaphorically speaking, takes place en route on this “Road of the Brothers”.
Cyrille’s résumé is too wonderfully long to be celebrated in a five-hundred-word review. But perhaps his most enduring legacy before this record is his contribution to Cecil Taylor’s path-breaking bands of between 1964 and 1975. If ever there was a rhythm colorist with the power to create the impulse to dance, like the great drummers from Sid Catlett through Max Roach and Elvin Jones to Brian Blade, Cyrille is it. It is a pity that being associated with the 60s Avant garde movement in the musical arts has somewhat marginalized his contribution to music and those who feel this way ought to recall his fine work with Coleman Hawkins too. At any rate this album is sure to change all that. Cyrille is a musician who feels the pulse of music in his blood and in his bones. His body then translates this into vibrations and impulses that are transmitted through his arms that move in wide arcs as he creates whorls of florid shapes and colors from his battery of drums. The geometry of this exquisite tattoo then becomes the central rhythmic palette of the music that is being played and Cyrille goes on to make beautiful dancing shapes that resemble arcs and parabolas. Moreover, as he inhabits the spectral fourth dimension, he is apt to make music in the shape of rhombuses and colorful flashy orbs, created by arms propelled as if by French curves as well.
The drummer is joined by a superb cohort and that makes all the difference in charting a course for this album from good to great. And in a scenario reminiscent of the memorable piano-less ensembles of Sonny Rollins, this group is often fronted by the superb melodicism of baritone saxophonist, Hamiet Bluiett (“Spirit Music”) the slyly beautiful work of guitarist, Alix Pascal (“Sankofa”) and the absolutely magnificent bassist Lisle Atkinson (too many tracks to name).
Tracks: Marinèt; Deblozay; Hope Springs Eternal; Isaura; Route de Frères, Part 1: Hills of Anjubeau; Route de Frères, Part 2: Memories of Port-au-Prince Afternoons; Route de Frères, Part 3: Manhattan Swing; C’mon Baby; Sankofa; Spirit Music; Mais (Percussion Duo); Ti Kawòl.
Personnel: Hamiet Bluiett: baritone saxophone; Alix Pascal: acoustic guitar; Lisle Atkinson: double bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums; Frisner Augustin: percussion and vocals.
Label: Tum Records | Release date: October 2011
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