By Colin Green
Ivo Perelman’s catalogue appears to be growing exponentially. Previously, there were two releases a year of three new albums on the Leo label. So far this year we’ve had a batch of five recorded in a burst of energy in July 2015 (the first two) and February 2016 (the final three), typifying the “intense creative frenzy” Perelman has been undergoing since 2010. This week the blog is reviewing all five in the order they were recorded.
There is a web of connections, not only between the albums but with Perelman’s previous recordings. A particular aspect calls for mention, however. After recording the first two albums Perelman took a break from music and returned to São Paulo, his city of birth, to oversee the installation of an exhibition of his art, which he extended into a sabbatical for a further five months. He was able to relax in a way he couldn’t in New York and gain a different perspective on music. During this period, he reacquainted himself with the twelve tone (serial) works of Schönberg, Berg and Webern, and some of the composers who followed, many of whom did not compose according to the strict rules of that system. This in turn led Perelman to rethink the use of intervals – the distance between notes. Musical scales give prominence to certain intervals (a succession of major and minor seconds with an occasional major or minor third) which carries over even when not referencing scales. He began to practice on the basis that all intervals are created equal, challenging his own habits: “If you practice the larger intervals, it makes the smaller ones that much easier to control”.
The results can be heard in a greater range of tone and phrasing (together with a Bel Canto line resulting from his study of Italian opera) not just the distribution of intervals, that can never be truly equivalent in improvisation, and which would be placing theory above musical values. At times, it does sound like there are more wide intervallic leaps than usual on the three albums in question, but who’s counting? What Perelman has done is not an emulation of other people’s music – it doesn’t sound like any of the composers whose works prompted his thoughts. Familiarity can breed fluency but habit is a great deadener, and his reconsideration of vertical movement and relations has stimulated an expansion of his vocabulary. The technical details of how he achieved that are rather less important.
So: five takes on five very different albums.