Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp - Le Poisson Rouge, May 7th, 2017

Ivo Perelman, Photo by Susanne Baltes

It’s a rainy Saturday here in New Jersey and I finally have a chance to sit down and think about last Sunday's release show for saxophonist Ivo Perelman's and pianist Matthew Shipp's latest set of releases on Leo Records, The Art of Perelman & Shipp. I've cued up Volume 3, Pandora, which pairs Perelman and  Shipp with bassist William Parker and drummer Whit Dickey, to set the mood.

So it's a late show at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC. An intimate and extremely attentive audience is gathered, chatting and waiting for Perelman and Shipp to take the stage. They appear exactly at 9:30 and quickly assume their places. Perelman is in jeans and a crisp white button down shirt, tenor sax in hand, Shipp is in jeans and a black t-shirt facing kitty-corner from the audience at a Yahama grand piano. With a nod and no words, they begin.

Matthew Shipp and Ivo Perelman, photo by Peter Gannushkin

It's a gentle start, a lyrical and somewhat romantic melody rolls out of the saxophone. Shipp is hunched over the keyboard playing slow deliberate chords as they together set the baseline. Shipp begins picking up the pace, a slight push to which Perelman responds with a quick run, then rests on a long single note. With just piano and sax, it may seem that is a lot of empty space, but that is hardly the case, soon they work up to an early crescendo, piano intense like a crashing wave and sax coasting over the crest.

The fluidity of their music is most striking. Throughout, Shipp's rhythm is riveting, keeping the music flowing, never stagnating. In a short solo passage, Shipp lets loose small melodic rivulets that quickly join into a steady stream. Then, Perelman re-joins, tossing out more and more jarring ideas. Rapidly ascending lines jump deftly between octaves, never losing the musical ebb and flow.

After they ramp down from another intense moment, Perelman is in the midst of a solo passage and suddenly the reverent atmosphere is pierced by a squeaky door. In the pin-drop silence - aside from his horn of course - Perelman is nonplussed as he seamlessly reacts to the unexpected sound - maybe subconsciously, maybe not. 

Shipp is now pawing at the keys, light and bouncing, his shoulders moving rhythmically as Perelman takes up the challenge and quickly finds the right rhythm to play. Soon, the pianist's body language changes, he becomes less buoyant. Perelman hits a few low blats before matching a sudden cluster of notes from the piano.

The dynamic range that they work with is fascinating, the music is alive, sometimes growing a bit louder, sometimes just more intense. They eventually reach yet another peak, though this time the tension is heart pounding. Perelman is hanging out in the high register, an utterly gripping sound, and Shipp is all sustain and storm … finally it breaks. It seems like an effortless set, the music coming out of Perelman in a constant outpouring, achingly beautiful and abstractly challenging within just a few bars.

Following the duo is Marco Cappelli's Italian Surf Academy with bassist Damon Banks and drummer Dave Miller. They are a power trio take on the Ennio Morricone spaghetti western genre. It's as excellent as it sounds, fun, raw, and striking a nice balance between composition and improvisation.

The latest series of 7 CDs from Leo Records (The Art of Perelman-Shipp) sees the duo playing with peers such as bassists William Parker and Michael Bisio, and drummers Andrew Cyrille, Whit Dickey, and Bobby Kapp, in various combinations. However, the two don't necessarily need the help, as this release concert showed, the pair certainly are their own gravitational center. 

Catching up with Perelman later, near the merchandise table, it seemed to be an obvious question to ask: after several sets of multiple album releases over the past couple of years (all on Leo), is there more to come? With a smile Perelman said yes … "until I’m out of ideas", which doesn't seem to be happening any time soon!


  

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