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02/26/12

Andrew Cyrille & Haitian Fascination
Route De Frères
Tum

The core of this lucid, invigorating disc is the title triptych, a musical walk along the brotherhood road of Haiti, drummer Andrew Cyrille’s spiritual homeland. Paced by the burly baritone sax of Hamiet Bluiett and spiced by the pointillistic acoustic guitar of Alix Pascal, the album’s centerpiece begins frantic and jaunty, Pascal digging in as Cyrille detonates rim shots and Bluiett honks cartoon-like. And that’s only “Hills of Anjubeau,” the triptych’s launching pad. Part II, “Memories of Port-au-Prince Afternoons,” is more leisurely, Bluiett at his fattest, Cyrille smooth and urbane. Part III is “Manhattan Swing,” a sharply tailored blues and the most accessible cut on this rich recording.

While vocals are rare, Route de Frères feels conversational, due largely to Bluiett’s sharp, crying sax. Percussion man Frisner Augustin, who seamlessly melds beats with Cyrille on the party starter “Mais,” laughs and exhorts on “Marinèt,” the joyous opening track. An American born to Haitian parents, Cyrille also quickens “Ti Kawòl,” the disc’s itchy capper. A hybrid of American and Haitian musicians, this group plays music that spans the outside (usually thanks to World Saxophone Quartet keystone Bluiett), the earthy (Bluiett’s gnarly, expansive “Isaura”) and the spiritual (“Hope Springs Eternal,” the most contemplative piece and a showcase for Lisle Atkinson’s bowed double bass).

This is a loamy album that yields more each time the listener turns over his or her shovel. It also is a swinging album. No matter how far from melody a song strays, tunes never lose their anchor, largely thanks to Cyrille’s timekeeping, where even the pauses seem to keep the beat. Route de Frères is the sound of experience rediscovering its youth and its roots, themes Amiri Baraka’s liner notes address so eloquently. Heart, soul and brain are in sync here.

Originally published in January/February 2012
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