Ivo Perelman, Joe Morris & Gerald Cleaver – The Art of the Improv Trio, Volume 5 & 6 (Leo, 2016) ****
By Paul Acquaro
As we draw to a close on this series of reviews of saxophonist Ivo Perelman's latest set of recordings, The Art of the Improv Trio, we have a rare chance to hear the same trio but with the key difference of guitarist Joe Morris on Vol. 5 becoming bassist Joe Morris on Vol. 6. The results are two excellent recordings, sounding like two entirely different line-ups!
Vol. 6 provides an instant rush of listening adrenaline. The sax, drums, and bass line-up is a potent combination, and the trio does not disappoint. Vol. 5's sax, drums, and guitar approach is a more complex and quite rewarding on repeat listens. Let's start with the 'classic' line-up of Vol 6, to which I was instantly drawn, quite simply by its forthright energy.
The first third of 'Part 1', the main 42-minute track, builds in intensity until the saxophonist lets loose a primal scream (on the sax) at about the 16-minute mark. Then, the texture changes as Perelman takes his foot off the gas, Cleaver drops out, and Morris pulls back. This leads to a few solid minutes of exploration by Perelman - and to over use the metaphor - where he's checking the mirrors and refilling the tank before ramping up the engine again. As Cleaver and Morris re-enter the mix, they help the saxophonist in leading into another wave of intensity.
Switching gears to Vol. 5, this is an album that takes a little more time to announce itself. Morris' work on the guitar, as opposed to the bass, leads to a much different musical setting, and how the trio adapts so fluently and cohesively is just as an important of a component in creating such compelling music as Perelman's evolving technical capabilities (see Colin's intro). The guitar and sax, as opposed to the bass and sax, operate in a similar musical range, which could possibly generate more 'competition' for the same space, however what happens is an delightful intertwining of instruments and ideas.
'Part 1' starts with Morris comping alongside Perelman, while Cleaver accompanies with rhythmic ideas outlining the pulse. Continuing into 'Part 1', the interplay is more abstract than on Vol. 6. However, it is about halfway through 'Part 2' where the single note guitar lines really start popping. As 'Part 3' solidifies, the sax and guitar go at it, matching phrases, responding and reacting at warp speed. One of my favorite moments is on 'Part 8' where Cleavers' highly syncopated playing bubbles below a heated exchange between Morris and Perelman, the guitarist's chord fragments colliding with saxophonist's melodic bursts.
This isn't the first time that the trio of Perelman, Cleaver, and Morris have recorded as a trio, in fact we don't have to look back to far back to Living Jelly (Leo, 2012). These two volumes are an excellent update of three musicians in a mission to redefine the boundaries of their techniques and talents.
A strong closing to an excellent new series from Perelman. Indeed, 2016 has been a productive year for the saxophonist in releasing 11 incredible albums!
Check out all the reviews here.