Andrew Cyrille The Declaration of Musical Independence (ECM, Sept 23)
Andrew Cyrille & Bill McHenry Proximity (Sunnyside, Sept. 30)
Soon to be a Wall Street Journal review, considered in tandem. At 76 years old, Mr. Cyrille remains a vital force on the N.Y. scene in several contexts: As leader of wide-ranging ensembles; playing alongside fellow septuagenarians bassist Reggie Workman and alto saxophonist Oliver Lake—in the wondrous collective Trio 3; and within groups led by much younger players, such as pianist David Virelles and tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry.
Two new recordings display Cyrille’s subtle power and remarkable breadth of expression. On “The Declaration of Musical Independence” he leads a quartet including guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Ben Street and Richard Teitelbaum on synthesizer and piano. “Proximity” extends his catalog of duets, alongside Mr. McHenry.
Ted Nash Big Band Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom (Motéma)
Reeds player and composer Ted Nash has an ambitious big-band concept album, just out, with a timely nonmusical hook: “Presidential Suite: 8 Variations on Freedom” (Motema Music). For the album, Nash has recruited notable speakers (actress Glenn Close, historian Douglas Brinkley, Senator Joe Lieberman) to recite passages from iconic speeches by world leaders (JFK, FDR, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi): He weaves these into an original suite meant to evoke these themes.
Typically, I’d think such a project, especially in an election year, would be exploitative or just too cute. But Nash is a serious musician and savvy composer whose work I have written about many times. His compositions as a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra have marked some of that ensemble’s most creative moments. His own big-band CD, “Portrait in Seven Shades” is one exhibit in the mounting evidence that we’re living in a resurgence moment of large-ensemble jazz.
On that election-year theme…
Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra Time/Life: Song for the Whales and Other Beings (Impulse!/Verve, Oct. 14)
Through its more than 40-year tenure, Haden tended to convene his Liberation Music Orchestra whenever a Republican was in office and usually when there were repugnant policies worth protesting. (His was the last great example of instrumental music as protest.)
Thus, I’m not sure if the timing of this new release signals a coming Trump presidency. But I do know that Haden, were he alive now, would be distinctly worried about that prospect. (“He’d probably say, as he told me about Republicans one the eve of Obama’s electoral victory, “You know, they can do anything.”)
This new release includes two tracks recorded at a 2011 festival, with Haden present (likely the last material he recorded with this ensemble), and 3 others recorded last year, with Carla Bley (the group’s longtime pianist and arranger) leading.