Andrew Cyrille, Lifetime Achievement Honoree at the Vision Fest, Isn't Resting on His Laurels

Nov 2, 2018

Andrew Cyrille, a drummer and composer who has stood near the center of the jazz avant-garde since its origins in the 1960s, will be the Vision Festival’s next lifetime achievement honoree. He’s due to receive his honor during the 24th annual edition of that event, at Roulette in Brooklyn next June.

Cyrille, who will turn 79 next week, has appeared on 15 previous editions of the Vision Festival, going back to the very first, in 1996. Last year’s honoree, pianist and composer Dave Burrell, prominently featured him in two distinct sets.

“I’ve put a lot of work into learning and playing music just about all my life,” Cyrille said this week by phone. “So when my peers acknowledge that — give me some warm feelings and praise about the direction I’ve taken and what I’ve done in music — I really appreciate it.”

Patricia Nicholson Parker, founder of Arts For Art, which produces the Vision Festival, described Cyrille as a natural choice. “His sound on the drums is his voice, and his voice alone,” she wrote in an email. “His art has impacted thousands of musicians and listeners around the world.”

Cyrille comes to these accolades in the midst of a late renaissance. Lebroba, a new album out today, is his second as a leader for ECM Records, following the acclaimed 2016 release The Declaration of Musical Independence. The new album features Cyrille in a collaborative trio with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Bill Frisell, each of whom contributes a composition or two.

“It feels good to be able to play with people of that musical stature,” says Cyrille, “who are very creative, who have their own sound, who have their own ideas, and just do what they do. We all combine our signatures, and each signature is distinct — and at the same time, each signature is part of a whole.”

That convergent approach is evident throughout Lebroba, which is named after a Cyrille composition with lyrics that go unsung. (Naming the origins of each member of the trio, the words are: “Leland, Mississippi / To Brooklyn, New York / Brooklyn, New York to / Baltimore, Maryland.” The melody of the song, played by Frisell, faithfully traces this syllabic path.)

Cyrille will perform the music from Lebroba on the Vision Festival’s opening night, June 11, as part of a full evening devoted to his music. His partners will be Smith and the fine guitarist Brandon Ross, standing in for Frisell.

Some of the evening is still being planned, but the Vision Festival has confirmed that Cyrille will also perform an improvised duo with the eminent German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann. The two have performed in duos going back at least to 1982, when they recorded a live concert in Berlin, later released on the FMP label (and made available digitally by Destination: OUT).

And in a separate duo, Cyrille will connect with the master percussionist, martial artist and botanist Milford Graves, rekindling a musical relationship that goes back to 1969.

Cyrille and Graves have performed and recorded extensively since, often in percussion ensembles that included Rashied Ali. Their aptly titled album Dialogue of the Drums, which finds them mano a mano with an arsenal of percussion, was recorded and released in 1974.

Many more details about the 2019 Vision Festival will be announced in the coming months. For more information, visit artsforart.com/vision.

And on Nov. 15, Arts For Art will host a Vision Festival Lifetime Achievement Salon. The event, at 75 Club at Bogardus Mansion on Murray Street, will feature performances by Cyrille and Burrell. Poet Quincy Troupe will also read some work, and conduct an interview with Cyrille.