Monday, December 16, 2019
Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp - Live in Nuremberg (SMP Records, 2019) ****½
By Sammy Stein
Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp have released a live recording and it is something quite special. recorded at a live concert in Nuremberg in June 2019, it gives a real feel of how great live music should be. Set one is over an hour of discussion between sax and piano - and it is a discussion because, just as in personal interactions, the conversation veers between listening, answering, talking at the same time and then one steps out for a while whilst the other takes over. The early part consists largely of Matthew Shipp placing chords over which Perelman on his sax takes liberties, embellishing, telling tales and taking over in a breathless, excitable style. A little further in and the piano asserts its authority, slapping the sax down a tone or two, the sax continually offering cheeky responses, only to be put down again. The conversation continues, each taking lead, each sitting back but over the first section, neither player falls silent for more than a millisecond.
What is interesting is how often the lead changes and how , though the sax takes the lead often, the piano leads for longer with Perelman gladly following, adding his quips and interjections but following mostly. Shipp occasionally introduces something completely different such as one section when Perelman is answering a particularly loud scale ascension and suddenly the piano is soft, quietly offering up rivulets of trickling sound, which is an incredibly effective way of re-taking the lead and for a minute or so the sax drops out, offering only breathy interjections into the falling, trickling, rivers of sound Shipp continues relentlessly.
Then, the sax returns, cheekily juxtaposing the chords, ascending where the piano descends and creating its own apposite sine-waves of sound. This continues throughout much of the recording and there are sublime moments aplenty such as when Matthew Shipp hammers out series after series of chords and Perelman noisily free flows across the top, effortlessly splitting hairs in tempo and rhythmic changes, inserting sound into each and every space left by the chords.
What comes across clearly is the relationship Matthew Shipp has to classical music, with his sometimes eloquent chordal progressions and melodies, the perfect apposite to Perelman's intricacies on the saxophone. It is as if this playing style breaks the chains which bound Ivo Perelman and with Shipp he unleashes an energy which surfaces as cheeky stut runs, blazing top notes and shrieking wails across the steadfast, rock-solid piano. Because it is a live recording and improvised over a large extent, the music will never be played this way again, and it is this quality of live performances which often make the decision to capture it or let it go an importance choice. In this case, it was right to capture because the listener is taken up, away and along with the two musicians who, whilst playing with the same reverence - and often irreverence- you might expect- are still occasionally tempered by remembering and respecting they have an audience - also live and within hearing distance.
The ear-shattering explosions from the sax are perfectly off set by the heavy, thundering melodies going on under Shipp's guidance at one point, then at another the sax plays a beautiful melody across the top of well, space because the piano simply drops out, leaving Perelman on his own projecting melodic sound into the echoey space of a minute. Both players switch from staccato to legato, from stut to smooth in the case of Perelman and Shipp demonstrates his intuitive understanding of harmonics under the provocative, highly charged sax lines at times. Perelman uses the sax to speak, sing and shriek, mostly to great effect. he has that ability to switch his sound from that of petulant response to mature, well honed and melodic responses.
This recording is a record of the date, the time and the place - Nuremberg June 2019 - where two great musicians who play in harmony - in the literal if not the musical sense -and the energy and intuition comes across much sharper than in a studio recording.
Much is said of the quality of the performance when the audience insists they return and the pair deliver an encore - just over four more minutes of completely improvised, delicious, bonus music.
Out of almost a quarter of a century of playing together, Matthew Shipp and Ivo Perelman have developed something of a psychic link when playing together - yet there is still a sense of more to come, more challenges to be explored and different combinations of the keys and in this live recording that sense of uniqueness comes across loud and clear.