January 6, 2016
Bambi Pang Pang (featuring Andrew Cyrille)
Drop Your Plans
El Negocito eNR040
By Ken Waxman
Maturity can be defined in diverse ways. Master drummer Andrew Cyrille is mature for instance because at 76, he improvises with an economy of motion, reflecting more than half century of percussion accomplishments with everyone from Coleman Hawkins to Cecil Taylor. Despite their baffling and embarrassingly juvenile name, the three musicians who make up the Belgian band Bambi Pang Pang are mature too. Unlike many sessions by younger players, Drop Your Plans – the title probably another callow jape – their collaboration with Cyrille, is a stand out because the sound is developed to treat the tunes with slowly evolving understatement. Like an accommodating lover, they collectively realize that sophisticated technique prevails over youthful enthusiasm.
The paramount instance of this realization is “Dr. Licks”, which appropriately enough was composed by the drummer. As Cyrille defines the accompaniment with off-centre plastic water bottle-like clunks, tenor saxophonist Viktor Perdieus sketches the theme with a variety of craggy spits and slurs. Steadying the slowly evolving melody with pedal-pushed percussiveness, pianist Seppe Gebruers’ bottom-triggered notes resound with a density that suggests they’re emanating from the giant keyboard Tom Hanks dances on in Big rather than the standard instrument.
That tune impress with its easygoing gait surrounding a rugged inner strength. This reasoning insinuates itself into most of the CD’s 11 tracks. The title track for example floats like a boat on calm water, with the languorous performance so transparent, every motion from Laurens Smet’s double bass strings shines with precision. Gebruers’ processional outpouring on his own “Frases” dawdles at such a languid pace that his skill in never letting the piece slip off beat or out of tune is confirmed.
Concurrently though, Bambi Pang Pang members demonstrate that their philosophy doesn’t result from instrumentalist senility or feebleness. “Fuks” and “Border/Grens” for instance are hard-blowing efforts that highlight the saxophonist’s triple-tonguing and the pianist’s fanning cascades. Ferociously intersecting with each others’ propulsive progressions, Perdieus and Gebruers prove that the group can swing with the power of the Jazz Messengers if it wishes. Probably the most convincing testimony to the group’s notable vigor – and collective maturity – is that it never seems that old hand Cyrille is anything more or less than a wholly integrated member of a fully-functioning working band.
Tracks: Isme; Fuks; Frases; Sum; Threescore and Fourteen; Dr. Licks; Bottle of Drums; Border/Grens; Ready Set; Drop your plans; Isme
Personnel: Viktor Perdieus: soprano and tenor saxophones; Seppe Gebruers: piano; Laurens Smet: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums
—For The New York City Jazz Record January 2016