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Friday, December 7, 2018

Ivo Perelman and Rudi Mahall - Kindred Spirits (Leo, 2018) *****

By Sammy Stein

Ivo Perelman is a prolific free playing saxophone player. He has collaborated with too many musicians to mention but which include some jazz luminaries like Matthew Shipp, Peter Erskine, William Parker, Paul Bley, Billy Hart, and a host of others. He is tenacious and affable and his free playing, often switching up a register, is renown. When paired with other empathetic improvisers a complex and deeply satisfying interaction can happen.

Here, on 'Kindred Sprits' ( Leo records 2018) Perelman pairs with bass clarinet player Rudi Mahall and the result is something extraordinary. A 2 CD set, CD1 features 5 tracks, CD 2, 7 tracks listed simply by number. Track 1 features Mahall and Perelman in at times quite poetic interaction, each bouncing and reflecting the tempo and cadence set by the other, switching back and forth, the tenor commenting and the bass clarinet responding with uttered phrases and interjected sentences of music. The tone of the bass clarinet is sonorous, silky and laced with a touch of humour, reflected ably by Perelman's sax. One section feels like the two are engaged in musical hopscotch, each jumping into the brief pauses left by the other. This, as the opening track, sets the theme and standard of the rest that follow. Perelman's control at altissimo is superb. Track 2 sees the bass clarinet open with sax swiftly following , echoing at first, the rhythmic patterning of the clarinet but soon there are two melodic lines on the go, swooping towards, across and away from each other but returning to key and lines which cross and entwine. Absolutely charming. Perelman's joyful dance over the bass line of the clarinet is perfectly placed so as to enhance the lines which Mahall introduces. At one stage the sax gives a series of slurred notes over a tight rhythm of the clarinet which denotes the change and switch of the track into something a whole lot more than it was, with blisteringly fast passages from both.

Track 3 is opened with breathy, soft melody, which is offset by a slippery set of glissando explorations from first the sax, then the clarinet - or is it the other way around? At this point the musicians are trading commentary to such an extent it is difficult at times to pin point when one stops and the other starts, or when both are playing. It is hard to get across how well the improvisational element is felt here as each introduces changes, the other follows or not and there is a sense of true and complete immersion by one musician in the other's playing. Beautiful. Track 4 is of the same quality and vein, though it is defined by more series of fast, scorching blasts of fast-delivered changes and also a dynamic in the crescendo and diminuendo which add yet another texture but the essence of the sound changes is not attained by volume changes but intensity and the effect is not subtle. One section sees both screeching like banshees, Perelman stutting over a loose-reeded clarinet line creating a Brotzmann-esque sense of the bizarre yet perfectly acceptable. Track 5 is lyrical and melodic at times, interspersed with phrasing which could have been plucked from a film score - but only briefly. Song-like snippets flitting across the consciousness of the players, both, it seems simultaneously at times whilst at others, one leads, the other follows. There are some crazily beautiful and perfectly pitched disharmonies with 7ths and 3rds galore - not always form both and not always at the same time- across a small section which makes the ears prick up and the brain take note. This is decent music with hidden themes, fascinating under currents and superbly un thought-about delivery, which is the point - and it is beautiful.

Disc 2 is a musical continuum of the power-share of Mahall and Perelman , the opening track conveying an atmosphere which is soft and calm until Perelman decides to squeeze more emphasis and the bass clarinet responds by issuing forth a series of notes of such rounded depths, the sax can do nothing but contrast, as it cannot reflect so Perelman takes off on a fluttering flight of altissimo and higher register phrases which hover over the top of the smoother, well rounded and profoundly thoughtful bass clarinet lines before each acknowledges and reflects the other's phrasing . Track 2 sets off with a cheeky, walking little theme before it gets just a little silly and time warps into clari-sax land's version of the looking glass. In a good way, as this is verging on ridiculous in its exploration of different and contrasting phrasing from both players.

Track 3 is short but slightly wonderful with Perelman squeaking over the top, searching for the highest range of his tenor, whilst the bass of Mahall offers support but lets Perelman fly. This continues into track 4 but with a spacier, emptier feel, with gaps in the music allowing silence to be used as an effective tool into which both players tip their improvised sounds. Track 5 should be called '12 and a half minutes of very cool improvisation is done'. At times, though the music is completely improvised, the two players come together as one creating a curved edge feel as they come together, swoop away and back again. Complete overdose of loveliness for the improvised music listeners. Track 5 contains more harmonic development between the 2 players than some of the other tracks and also some playful reflection and echoing with first one, then the other taking the initiative. The bass lines are gorgeous. Track 6 is led first by the bass clarinet with sax over the top but by the second third who know who leads and who follows - actually neither and that is good.

What hits home on this CD is the joy of improvisation which can come when two players of similar musical thoughts and needs perhaps are put together and choose to collaborate. Mahall and Perelman both explore and there is a lot of adventure in the music yet you can hear the classical training and the links to strong jazz precepts as they never veer too far from the theme set, the melody is always there. Somehow, this makes the music more accessible because the mind , even subliminally, has something to follow yet the improvisational nature in which both play around the themes and lines is exceptional, natural and a joy. I had not listened to a lot of Perelman before , though he has been on the radar through other players or indeed Mahall, but the impact of this first intensive listen is such that I am now asking myself - why had I not heard more? That, I intend to rectify. This is improvised music at its best , delivered with power, joy and it is completely uplifting.

Personell: Ivo Perelman , tenor sax
Rudi Mahall: Bass Clarinet