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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ivo Perelman / Joe Morris / Gerald Cleaver - Living Jelly (Leo, 2012) ****½

By Paul Acquaro

Living Jelly is saxophonist Ivo Perelman with drummer Gerald Cleaver and guitarist Joe Morris. The group's improvised approach to the recording is described by Morris as:
... being held together by an instantaneously configured natural structure that is built on an evolving melodic and rhythmic form, made with one sound or silence at a time. There is an implied agreement of support and acceptance of each particle that is presented.
Which, judging by the album, probably means that everything just fell wonderfully into place when the absorbing drumming of Cleaver met up with the probing guitar work of Morris and interlocked with Perelman's energetic tenor.  

The trio, using unexpected intervals and imaginative melodic flights, creates engaging spontaneous compositions that breath easily and free. The opening 'In Pursuit of Pleasure' begins with Perelman blowing a bop like melody under which Morris lays down supportive and nearly straight ahead comping. Cleaver's drums are light and precise, adding pulse and texture to the improvization. The abstract components are kept tight and efficient even as the tune gets further out. Fast forwarding to a later track like 'Enigma' we find the same controlled and precise playing put in the service of a different type of song, more frenetic from the get-go, the overall tune is never lost as Morris and Perelman ping off each other's inventions. Cleaver's drumming, again, is driving and undergirding.

Living Jelly follows closely on the tails of the recently released Family Ties (which featured Morris on bass rather than guitar). Throughout the recording, which is taking an early perch on the top of my list of music of the year, Perelman's ideas flow generously and melodically. Overall, the recording is crisp and affords each instrument its own space as they interact and intertwine.

Check out the group this past December in New York: