Time Out In A Private Universe

Bainbridge Island’s own Bill Frisell can’t stop coming out with that “Munsters Theme.” I chuckled to hear it once, laughed out loud to hear it twice. I still can’t tell if it’s all on purpose. But that just makes me laugh a third time.  

That’s the title track on this one, Lebroba, two letters for the birthplaces of trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, Frisell on guitar as most of you know, and the bandleader, drummer Andrew Cyrille.  “The Munsters Theme” is still cracking me, up, you’ll have to give me a minute here…Munsters quite aside, though (seriously), this music is about space and a specific space shaping. Not quite the atavistic Meters thing where a quarter-second sparks between notes and you just plain feel universes, multiverses, in that gap; no, here we got down-home (one-universe) sculpture in sound.  “Describe negative space without using any negatives,” Daniel Pinkwater’s sculpture teacher once told him. The sculpture teacher eventually figured out he was an accidental Zen master (hey, I’m jealous).  

So here Cyrille, who’s spent most of his not-quite-eighty years figuring out how to make things simpler, makes the pauses (long, short, planting seeds, sowing seeds, gathering stalks) count as much as the bangs and bongs.  Suspense and its release count for a great deal here—that crash cymbal can slam down definitively as a judge on a murder verdict—but like that gavel, it finds a setting to shine. This avoids information overload, as when the late Sunny Murray took his own crash cymbal as a prison wall needing the automatic weapon of his stick to punch through.  

All three boast long and distinguished careers, although Frisell, not to be outdone through youngblood status, released I think it’s 300 albums, by this point—but since you can spend a week inside each one, let’s not yowl.  Sometimes they back away from one other, sometimes they lean towards the center of the mix. Sometimes they construct fences and other barriers over which they peep towards the greater good. Which is okay; games often have rules, and aren’t quite as fun without them.  But for me, it’s a little more fun when I can’t quite tell the rules. (I like guessing games.)

This album will not whiten your teeth, shrink your waistline, or enable you to win Facebook arguments.  It might allow you to survive the apocalypse the cynics who call themselves realists all say is coming. And hey, they might not be wrong.  But if it comes, you’ll need quiet. You’ll need intrigue. You’ll need a time out in a private universe.  

Just don’t forget the first-aid kit, and at least one car battery.  And it couldn’t hurt to remember “The Munsters.”

Andrew Hamlin

Andrew Hamlin likes to photograph shoes and write about dog shit. He was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, where he resides today. He attended the Evergreen State College, where he wrote and edited arts coverage for the Cooper Point Journal. He is the film critic for the Northwest Asian Weekly, and he’s published arts coverage and criticism in the San Diego Reader, Village Voice, Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, Goldmine, and other publications. He misses Helen Wiggin. Hamlin’s website is https://andrewhamlin.org.

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