For those who see the title above and begin hyperventilating about the seemingly unending train of calamities reported by our media over the last five years, do not let that keep you from The News, the brilliant balm of an album by the Andrew Cyrille Quartet. It opens with the warm, enveloping glow of Bill Frisell’s guitar, rising in hues like dawn over his composition “Mountain” (an apt visual for the timbre) while Cyrille, bassist Ben Street, and pianist David Virelles fill out the landscape. Although Frisell’s sound is most prominent, the way the group plays in complementary, weaving lines achieves something resembling equality between the musicians.
On his quartet’s last release, 2016’s The Declaration of Musical Independence, Cyrille pushed the group toward greater freedom. Now that such independence has been achieved, it has a more relaxed sound that emphasizes its internal dynamic. See another Frisell-penned piece, “Go Happy Lucky.” Cyrille and Street don’t so much keep time as use patterns that orbit the beat, maintaining the suggestion of it; Virelles operates similarly, articulating chords as if they were their own melodic line. (He’s the one new member of the quartet, replacing Richard Teitelbaum.) The music travels at an organic, strolling pace, making every note easy to follow and retain.
For the title track, a reworking of a solo piece Cyrille first recorded on The Loop in 1978, the group retains its equal spirit while conveying the discordance of “the news.” Whereas the original features Cyrille playing a snare drum covered with a newspaper, here the four band members free-improvise together as Virelles conjures an eerie, droning background tone. Our modern, chaotic, increasingly digital existence is subtly yet vividly expressed.
Although they may at times evoke chaos, Cyrille and his group cohere better than ever. The News is a true quartet record, one that allows each musician’s sound, compositional style, and sense of the world to shine through.