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Monday, November 4, 2019

Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp - Efflorescence Volume 1 (Leo Records, 2019) ****½

By Sammy Stein

Efflorescence Volume 1 is a 4CD set from Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp. Already recorded for later release is Efflorescence 2. Shipp and Perelman have been together on many albums and 7 feature just the two musicians. Efflorescence is a term used in chemistry and means to flower out - it happens when hidden salts gather on the surface of a material so the title seems apt. There is both a chemistry between these musicians and a flowering of their art and revealing of their hidden depths over the 4 CD set which is Efflorescence 1.

CD 1, Track 1 is a conversation of 2 instruments, each travelling their own pathways but converging in harmonic agreement at differing points. Perelman seems to be taking his saxophone into almost melodic realms whilst Matthew Shipp offers dissonant chords and also melodic lines which contrast beautifully with the saxophone workings. Track 2 sees even more melody from both players, whilst Track 3 sees a more familiar Perelman/Shipp discursive entree with Perelman veering from altissimo to lower register and Shipp creating crescendos of scale progressions underneath, coupled with interludes where both q and a across the registers of both piano and sax. Track 4 is atmospheric, gentle and spacey, Perelman's suggestive notes providing pivots for Matthew Shipp to hang his chords on before the track builds into a breathy altissimo sax line, under which Shipp supports with chords predicting the sax notes. Track 5 is energetic and a simplex of complexities swapped between the two players whilst Track 6 has a lot of Brotsmann-esque sax talk over gentle interspersed notes and chords from the piano. Track 7 is sax led, Track 8 piano led and in this one the sax follows the chordal landscapes set out by Shipp. Track 9 introduces an almost swing atmosphere, both fast and slow and then Track 10 is a piano led rhythm-infused number with Perelman's sax picking up the leads provided by strong and linear chord lines. Even the off-notes are perfectly placed here, making it clear that some intuitive playing is happening. Track 11 has breathy sax lines over piano trinkles and track 12 is verging on the melodic again as Perelman shows his gentler side over Shipp's classically lined chords. Track 13 is gorgeous with contrapuntal rhythms played by both instruments, whilst Shipp intersperses his with heavy, deep chords. The final track on CD1 sees Perelman once again speaking volumes in altissimo over contrasting well worked chord progressions from the piano, thunked out with style.

CD 2, track 1 is a great opener and wake-up number with piano offering chunky, heavy chords over which Perelman soars on tenor. Track 2 misleads at the outset with harmonies aplenty before each instrument diverges, Perelman treading his own redolent pathway over the steady classic lines of the piano. The ending has a madrigal atmosphere at one point which works well before a controlled descent to the end. Track 3 sets off at a jazzy swing with Perelman using a repeated riff, unusual for him, over Shipp's well placed chords and lines - that is before the sax leads up and away and Shipp changes the chord lines to lower, emphasised scale descents. Track 4 is busy, with Perelman's altissimo lines in contrast with deep register notes from the piano for the most part until the sax solos into breathy final notes. Track 5 and 6 are on-going conversations between the 2 instruments with track 6 being particularly verbose from the sax. Track 7 is gentler but not easier, with counter-rhythms from Shipp over which the sax melody flows, held in check by the emergent chords which rear from the piano. Track 8 is a maelstrom of sound initially, crashing piano and sighing, singing sax but it settles into a quirky and dissonant conversation, each instrument seemingly following the other, though it is not clear which is doing what at times. Perelman's control in altissimo is impressive here. Track 9 is more melodic from both players, whilst Track 10 and 11 see a return to the more conversational style which is familiar between the two musicians here.

CD 3 Track 1 is a surprise because Perelman is indistinctly melodic mode- at least at the start, before his innate creativity gets the better of him and the sax is let loose, soaring over the strong chords from the piano. Track 2 begins with crashing, crushing chords from the piano, over which the timorous staccato of the altissimo lines come in before the sax line becomes more forceful and soon the sax is talking over the piano chords - challenging the noisy attitude with pertinent and perfectly placed cheeky notes inserted into any gaps. A lovely track and the unspoken communication can be felt between the musicians. Track 3 is almost a respite after that, a much gentler affair whilst Track 4 is gentler still, more melodic and harmonious - well, until half way through when it digresses before returning to gentleness. Track 5 is rather beautiful but in a different way as Shipp and Perelman take turns about setting the tempo and rhythms whilst Track 6 is more dissonant and includes a lovely forceful ascension from Perelman over some quite extravagant piano before Perelman counter sit with some buzzy, fast fingered work , finishing with altissimo. Track 7 is breathy, gentle and almost tuneful sax over equally gentle piano lines whilst Track 8 is breathless sax over rivulets of notes from the piano, developing into a competitive yet precise divergence with both players in upper registers, playing faster and furious before bringing it back down again. Track 9 is short, sweet and sees both players intuitively picking up each other's lead whilst Track 10 follows a similar pattern but with extended lines and heavier chords interspersed from Shipp, over which Perelman stuts in altissimo and flows beautifully in lower register. Track 11 is set out by gapped chords, providing Perelman the perfect opportunity to insert a melodic episode before both players have had enough of that and chords develop into crashes, the sax soars up and down the scales with tremolo notes at the ends and of course a bit of spoken altissimo. Sweet. Track 12 is part melody, part counter flowing harmonies whilst Track 13 is more of a free flowing conversation. Track 14 is gentle and harmonious versus ebullient in turns.

CD4 Track 1 has all the essence of a funereal march before the sax sings across the top, adding 4 note phrases to lift the dirge-like piano chords. Piano catches on and changes to a lighter touch which is welcomed and the sax soars, creating some emotive lines. Track 2 is heavy from piano, light from sax which makes a great contrast for the ears, whilst Track 3 contains some great challenging sax lines overflowing the piano chords, which are progressive and classical. Track 4 is a lighter affair, with fast but light fingered sax workings over piano chords which feel like they walk the keyboard. Track 5 begins with a piano phrase over which the sax enters and takes the lead. The piano follows, setting the chords now and the sax follows - a case of perfect juxtaposition and turn about between the two players. Track 6 is easy on the ears from both players with melodic, high register sax lines and wavering notes over solid piano whilst Track 7 is faster, trickier and has a fun element sewn in amongst the crashing chords and tenor sax lines. Track 8 is interesting with short repeated melodic phrasing from the sax over intuitively placed chords and lines from the piano with a crazy but lovely section where both players playing their own challenging lines yet each is clearly acutely aware of what the other is playing. Track 9 is fun with piano setting up rivulets of deep notes over which the altissimo lines soar and play. Track 10 is more melodic from the sax, albeit with a twist - over and under which the piano gently assets its lead. A gentle manner with which to finish.

There is intuition and sensitivity in the playing, an understanding between the musicians yet many times, the character of each emerges.

Efflorescence has another meaning - in botany it is when a lot of flowers appear suddenly and this too might explain why each track has an alternative name - flower names. From Cosmos to, Rose, Amaryllis, Jasmine, Sage, Nightshade, Forsythia and more. The plants chosen range from climbers to thick set and sticky plants, from clinging tendrils to tiny demure florets, which seems very appropriate because the tracks on this 4 CD set are variable, each with their own form, their own life, differing energy and an overall tenderness which seems to seep into many of the tracks - possibly part of the musicians' subliminal characters perhaps? As such, Perelman and Shipp have taken different blooms, different fragrances and essences, some ornamental, some useful and just a few deadly. They have combined them into a bouquet and presented them to the listener, tied together with the ribbon which connects the musicians - improvisation, passion , energy and joy. The bouquet is beautiful, its fragrance divine but just be careful and watch out for the deadly nightshade. Excellent music indeed.


Mister g said...

Why does ivo perelman release so many CDs .he seems to have a compulsive need to record and release every note he plays .he has made some good music but this is overkill

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this excellent review.