In (early) observance of Martin Luther King Day, New York City was treated to a concert by two of the most joyfully fieriest jazz players the 60s and 70s produced, respectively: Andrew Cyrille and Oliver Lake. This took place in the performance space of Manhattan’s Museum For African Art, a small but impressive museum and store. Both fellows have played together off and on for years, most notably in the group Trio3 with bassist Reggie Workman, but tonight was devoted to the concept of the duo. The room was packed with a hundred or so people, music fans of all ages, and the air was thick with anticipation.
Drummer Andrew Cyrille made his reputation in the 60s by playing with Cecil Taylor, going on to become (along with Sunny Murray) THE premier free jazz percussionist of that era, engaging in dialogs with players as an equal and not a "timekeeper." Saxophonist (alto/soprano)/flutist Oliver Lake came to prominence in the 70s, first emerging from the St. Louis free jazz scene and then establishing both a fertile career as a leader and as a member of the World Saxophone Quartet. Where both players have excelled in "free" contexts (sometimes creating the context on the spot), they also (mellowing with age? nah.) are excellent dynamic group players, as demonstrated by this duo performance. These guys combined the best aspects of volatile spontaneity, immediacy, composition and structure (both explicit and implicit). Lake burned in his blues-laced, vocally inflected, Eric Dolphy/Charlie Parker inspired style, putting more ideas in a single solo than many musicians put in an entire album. In Cyrille’s hands (and feet) the drum set virtually became a "melodic" instrument his sound was crackling, sizzling, singing and conversational. He was both "accompanist" (he kept a powerful rhythmic impetus throughout) and "co-soloist." The interplay between the two was at times almost telepathic, and the enthralled crowd enthusiastically showed their appreciation.