Qasim Naqvi, Leo Wadada Smith, Andrew Cyrille: Two Centuries

Synthesist leads trumpet and drums in a largely meditative sonic exploration leavened with moments of gnarly, electronic funk


Leo Wadada Smith and Andrew Cyrille need no introduction, but both once taught drummer and composer Qasim Naqvi around the turn of the century. Incidentally, his group Dawn of Midi supported Radiohead on a recent US tour, but here he appears as one of three equals, playing a set of his own compositions. Or you could say four equals, as producer and Red Hook Records founder Sam Chung previously worked with Cyrille at ECM, and brings with him to this set the same zen-like concentration he utilised there.

Throughout, Naqvi’s modular or Minimoog synthesizer set the scene with pools of sound, delivering sometimes a central feeling of contemplation and serenity, elsewhere an agitated urgency. The water-like sonic drops and electronic blips on Spiritual Is 150 give way to a pastoral wash on Organum and then a gnarly, electronic funk on Sadden Upbeat. On Tympanic, the music stutters and stops in hesitant delivery, in contrast to the increasing energy of Bypass Decay and the frivolous rhythm of Palaver. The final three tracks return the set to its meditative core, the concluding Orion Arm at its most pensive.

Against that backdrop, Cyrille delivers a wide range of percussive effects, notably voluble on The Curve, more contemplative on Organum and insistent on Bypass Decay, while Smith, who sits out for long periods, delivers a series of long, drawn-out trumpet lines of the cleanest sound that reach up into the heavens before slowly gliding back down to earth. He is at his most Milesian on Sadden Upbeat, elsewhere subdued on Wraith and expressively eloquent and measured on Halide.

But as this is a collaborative effort, each musician meshes perfectly against the others but also stands alone in his contributions. What results is a sonic adventure of the very highest and finest quality, an utterly modern creation of great variety that sounds both effortless and seamless. A hugely impressive set.

For DF; The Curve; Spiritual Is 150; Organum; Tympanic; Bypass Decay; Palaver; Sadden Upbeat; Wraith; Halide; Orion Arm (47.22)
Naqvi (syn, d); Smith (t); Cyrille (d). Brooklyn, NYC, 21–23 May 2021.
Red Hook Records RH1002