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Saturday, April 24, 2021

Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp - Special Edition Box (SMP, 2020) ****½

Hey, does anyone have a Blu ray player I can use?

This slim, attractive box set from saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp is, well, quite appealing. The orange textured heavy stock paper box, closed by magnetic clasps, opens to reveal a CD, Blu ray disc, and a substantial booklet by writer and musician Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg. While one may wonder if another documentation of the prolific pianist and the preternaturally productive Perleman is warranted, do not think about it for too long, Special Edition Box is limited in number - almost as if they were worried about letting too much goodness out into the world.

Let's start with the booklet: entitled 'Embrace of Souls', it is a passionately written and wonderfully flowing account (kudos to Andrew Castillo's translation) of Perelman and Shipp's musical partnership. Schouwburg, a free jazz vocalist and writer from Belgium, has provided context for the duo's musical connection that mixes personal observation with copious musical insight. Schouwburg convincingly  connects Perelman's continual development to the sound and techniques of John Coltrane, and the duo to precedents like Mal Waldron/Steve Lacy and Veryan Weston/Trevor Watts. He discusses Shipp and Perleman both alone and together and dives deep into the duo's sixteen duo recordings (I think I got that number correct) and touches briefly on several other combinations in which the two have worked. The quote from the booklet's back cover is well chosen: "The two improvised in symbiosis, as if they were bound to each other by invisible physical, mental, and emotional ties, in constant accord, as if neither was playing the role of soloist or backup."

Which is a perfectly good way to describe the recording that comes in this box, Procedural Language. Recorded in early 2019, it is in a way a companion piece to the Shipp/Perelman release Efflorescence Volume 1. Of that 4 CD release, Sammy Stein concurs with Schouwburg when she writes: "There is intuition and sensitivity in the playing, an understanding between the musicians yet many times, the character of each emerges."

It is somewhat challenging to find new adjectives and metaphors for the two musicians and their telepathic connection; yet, it is also tempting to try. From the moment that Shipp appears on track 1, he offers deliberate, wide-apart intervals, to which Perelman joins in with a pleading tone. The two intuit the next steps, but never give into habit or routine. After all, after so many recordings and such a long partnership, just how different can track 1 from Procedural Language be from track 12, or say from 2018's opulent Oneness? I am not sure, but somehow, they are. The same two instruments, in the hands of such consummate improvisors, spark different fires each time. Track 12, by the way, begins playfully, Shipp plays begins with wide intervals, but spicier, and Perleman's scales and runs are coltish.

I continue to scour the neighborhood for a player in order to watch the concert video that comes in the box. It is a July 2019 performance from Perelman's hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil. I suspect it was chosen because it exemplifies the traits that Schouwburg writes about and the effortlessness that the CD demonstrates, but with its own sense of self.

Special Edition Box is limited to 360 pieces, so go quickly to if you want one.