Bambi Pang Pang (featuring Andrew Cyrille) – Drop your plans – el NEGOCITO

Bambi Pang Pang (featuring Andrew Cyrille) – Drop your plans [TrackList follows] – el NEGOCITO eNR040, 44:51 [8/9/15] ****:

(Andrew Cyrille – drums; Seppe Gebruers – piano; Viktor Perdieus – saxophone; Laurens Smet – bass)

What is free jazz or free jazz improvisation? Is it jarring, chaotic noise with cymbals flying, horns shrieking, strings or keys clashing? The important constituent of free jazz isn’t necessarily the instrumental commotion. It’s the emotional impact. That means free improvisation can be about surplus of sound (if the conceptual strain is geared toward anger or some other visceral reaction), but it can also be the absence of frenzied sound (if the attentive nature permeating the music is happiness, affection or some other sensitive sensation). That manner of expressive balance infuses the 45-minute album, Drop your plans by Belgian group Bambi Pang Pang, with guest drummer Andrew Cyrille. Drop your plans [the band refers to the CD title with a single capitalized letter] is the result of a studio session with Cyrille, the seasoned percussionist, and three relative new-comers: pianist Seppe Gebruers; saxophonist Viktor Perdieus; and bassist Laurens Smet. Cyrille’s career is lengthy and varied. He’s played with Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane, worked with vibraphonist Walt Dickerson, and spent a decade with free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor. Recently, Cyrille has co-led Trio 3, with Oliver Lake and Reggie Workman. Gebruers, Perdieus and Smet are part of the improvisational collective Ifa y Xango. Bambi Pang Pang appears to be a spin-off of that ensemble.

Unlike some free jazz documents, Drop your plans consists of shorter works (11 tracks, the briefest just over one minute long; the longest under eight minutes). As mentioned, the musical vernacular is usually picturesque and gentle, although there are moments of decisive tension. The album is bookended by the same tune, “Isme,” done two different ways. The longer, initial 3:46 version has an ambiguous contour sculpted by Cyrille’s sympathetic percussion (shuffling cymbals and softly positioned sticks), Gebruers’s single piano notes, and Smet’s lithe bass, where he barely emphasizes a beat. The succinct, 1:59 reiteration of “Isme,” which concludes the record, displaces the tune’s temperament via asymmetrical piano notes, providing a slightly unstable equilibrium. The material between the two adaptations of “Isme” is what makes this overlooked album, issued in August, 2015, worth discovering.

Each musician is listed as a composer (two by Perdieus; four by Gebruers; two by Cyrille; one by Smet; and two pieces credited to everyone). Gebruers’ numbers have an experiential essence. The hectic “Fuks” (named after a character from a novel by Polish author Witold Gombrowicz) is held together by a shifting bass line and features rattling rhythmic elements by Cyrille and Gebruers, as well as unobtrusive sax which supplies a sense of jazz conventions. Gebruers’ other three cuts have a subtler slant. “Frases” has a defined delicacy. It’s not leisurely, rather it moves with unhurried development, where each note seems to take shape like smoke stirring in a casual wind draft. “Sum” (a piano/drums duet) also has a thoughtful structure, marked by Cyrille’s martial drum sticks (he creates a broken military cadence) and Gebruers’ keys. Gebruers’ “Border/Grens” is somewhat similar to what Keith Jarrett did with his European quartet, with a loose characteristic and curving interaction between the foursome. The Jarrett comparison is also apt due to Gebruers’ inarticulate vocalizing, akin to what Jarrett often does during live performances.

The most extended piece, at 7:48, is Cyrille’s rhythmically animated and liberating “Dr. Licks,” which Cyrille fans may recognize, because it first surfaced on a Cyrille and Anthony Braxton project, 2014’s Duo Palindrome 2002, Vol. 2. Here, the quartet covers much ground, from clacking percussion to forthright sax, as well as forceful bass and resounding, vehement piano effects. At the start, Perdieus plays poetically, but as the tune’s tumult rises, he stretches into heated tonalities and finally to tenseness. Cyrille’s other accomplishment is the six-minute solo statement, “Bottle of Drums.” Distinct from most drum/percussion solo recordings, this does not flaunt weighty rhythms or beats, but instead showcases Cyrille’s rhythmic skills with finely-detailed percussion components, from toms to snare to bass drum. He favors single hits of his sticks, allowing them to linger and echo. If someone desires a discharge of drumming, this isn’t it. But if somebody wants to experience superbly nuanced percussion, this is worth studying. Smet’s only contribution is the lovely, discrete title track. It is a triumph of intricacy and restraint, achieved through abiding, prolonged notes and a nearly palpable tranquility heightened by Perdieus’s lissome sax. The CD’s recording, mixing and mastering are wonderful. The articulation of the foursome’s fluidity is paramount throughout Drop your plans, and the way the musicianship is presented is as noticeable as the music. The closely-mic’ed method provides suppleness and grace, every note and every instrument placed precisely and in sync with the overall album aesthetic. Another plus: the CD comes with a free download code, so buyers can get digital files, which is a nice bonus. [Amazon so far offers this only as an MP3 audio file…Ed.]

TrackList: Isme; Fuks; Frases; Sum; Threescore and Fourteen; Dr. Licks; Bottle of Drums; Border/Grens; Ready Set; Drop your plans; Isme.

—Doug Simpson

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