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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ivo Perelman and friends

Like in his paintings, saxophonist Ivo Perelman likes broad strokes, often colorful over empty or almost empty backdrops. Even if his improvisations are mostly abstract, the color of jazz tradition and his native Brazil shine through at moments. As I described him last year : a powerful lyricist.

By coincidence, three new CDs by him fell in my mailbox with two day's difference. Hence the combined review, and I must admit, the confusion in my memory as to what happened on which album.

Ivo Perelman & Brian Willson - The Stream Of Life (Leo Records, 2010) ****

On this sax-drums duo with Brian Willson, who already participated on Perelman's "Mind Games" of last year, equally on Leo Records, the saxophonist sticks to his core instrument: the tenor. This is by far the musician at his most comfortable, playing his open yet accessible style of free form in perfect interplay with Willson. Despite his often wild playing, his tone is warm and inviting, and his frequent use of recognizable phrases from tradition, as a kind of tongue in cheek playfulness, only increase the listener's joy.

Despite the limitation of the line-up, the two artists manage to give all pieces their specific nature and aspect, from boppish to more free form. He is certainly at this best when he combines uptempo rhythms with free blowing, as on "Vicarous Punishment", not really the most creative piece, but it sounds good as it is, so why look further. And so is the album : surely not his most discerning or memorable one, but quite good throughout.

Ivo Perelman & Gerry Hemingway - The Apple In The Dark (Leo Records, 2010) ****

Althouth Perelman played cello, piano and trombone in his youth, he mostly stuck to the sax during his recording career. Yet here he plays the piano too, and to my knowledge the first time ever on record, but I may be wrong of course. His sparring partner is Gerry Hemingway and with great success. The first attack on the first piece is immediately powerful and formidable, as is Hemingway's reaction to it - abstract violence, full of raw energy, but then he switches to piano, first solo, in a quite abstract romanticism, then in duo with Hemingway. The piano-playing, although nice by itself, does not offer Perelman the same power and nuance as he manages on tenor, yet it gives the album the necessary variation. Over the ten tracks, Perelman switches between piano and sax, changing intensity and levels of abstraction.

The album is a reference to Brazilian author Clarice Lispector, whose novel "The Apple In The Dark", gives an interior dialogue of a murderer. The novel is also modernistic in its attempt to demonstrate the limitations of language to convey this deep reality without words.

Perelman's and Hemingway's take at this is not bad at all. The album sounds fresh and lively, and despite its intellectual subject, they do not fall into the trap of evoking the novel itself. And I like his approach to piano.

Ivo Perelman, Daniel Levin & Torbjörn Zetterberg - Soulstorm (Clean Feed, 2010) ****

That even forward-thinking musicians need a challenge, is well illustrated by this album. Clean Feed's Pedro Costa wanted to record with Ivo Perelman and wanted a cello and a double-bass to interact with him. He proposed the names of Daniel Levin and Torbjörn Zetterberg. Neither of the three knew each other's music, let alone played together, yet they trusted Pedro Costa's good judgment. And they were right. All three musicians are knocked out of their comfort zone and forced to play this double CD of incredibly open music, very often driven by Levin's cello, who seems most at ease in the unpredictable proceedings, yet gradually Perelman and Zetterberg become part of the overall sound, rather than just participating.

"Footsteps", the second improvisation encapsulates it all : the music is fragile, but equally ominous and dark when both strings use their bow and Perelman plays the deepest tones possible, then shifting between free lyricism and tonal explorations, between evaporating patterns and unique abstract figures, yet Perelman is not an in-the-moment musician (he is not Dunmall or Gjerstad), he needs to develop, to add and to build on past notes and phrases, to expand to reach some emotional release from tension, to suddenly come with a jubilant phrase.

The three musicians largely remain within the natural speaking voice of their instruments, rarely using extended techniques, but the free form and organic development leads to some fantastic moments of deep interplay and emotional sensitivity.

The title of the album also comes from a Clarice Lispector book, this time one with short stories, called "Soulstorm", and the titles of the tracks all represent the titles of one of the stories.

The first CD is an afternoon rehearsal before the performance, the second CD gives the evening performance in front of an audience. For musicians who have never played together, the result is excellent, with all three keeping some of their own character and style, yet generously sharing it with the two others, borrowing and absorbing in the process, but then - and that's the magic of free interplay - moving, pushing each other into regions were none of them had ventured before.

Music can be great!

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© stef


Richard Henry said...

It's very interesting that Perelman plays not only the sax but piano and can paint. I am sure that his paintings has elements of his music and vise versa. An artist is an artist.

Guy said...

Funny, because I just bought a Perelman-album yesterday! (Cama de Terra, w/ Matthew Shipp & William Parker). Clean Feed's release schedule is totally insane!