Ivo Perelman’s all-star D(IVO) saxophone Quartet - Perelman on the tenor sax, Tony Malaby (usually a tenor sax player) on soprano sax, Tim Berne on alto sax, and James Carter on baritone sax - claims to be to the left of both World Saxophone Quartet (WSQ) and Rova Saxophone Quartet, even though Berne and Carter owe much to the WSQ. Both Berne and Carter played on one of Julius Hemphill’s Sextet’s albums, Five Chord Stud (Black Saint, 1994), which was an extension of the WSQ, and Berne continued to explore Hemphill’s compositions on Diminutive Mysteries (Mostly Hemphill) (JMT, 1993), and later with his bands Bloodcount and Broken Shadows while Carter played on the last incarnation of the WSQ (Yes We Can, (Jazzwerkstatt, 2010)). But Perelman wanted to distance himself from the seminal legacy of these sax quartets and devised the new quartet, his first-ever sax quartet in a career that spans more than 100 albums by now, as a free-improvising unit, relying on the idiosyncratic voices of its musicians and their strong musical personalities. This may be the strength but also the weakness of D(IVO) saxophone Quartet.
Unlike Perelman, who focuses on free improvised meetings, Malaby, Berne and Carter are not only experienced free improvisers but distinct composers. The recording session of the D(IVO) saxophone Quartet at Perelman’s home base, the Park West Studios in Brooklyn, in January 2022 (and ready for release a month later), stresses the essence of the untitled, spontaneous seven-parts suite. Urgent, raw and intense music, reflecting the fast instincts, expressive voices and profound camaraderie as well as the uncanny ability to anticipate one another’s ideas.
But with such an all-star cast of such gifted musicians, you may expect more, much more, than an ad-hoc sax adventure. You would like to explore possible rich arrangements, thoughtful harmonizations and instant compositions and melodies that would go beyond the immediate instincts and the loose but tense and quite stormy dynamics. There are rare and mostly brief moments where the D(IVO) Saxophone Quartet attempts to explore such elaborate variations, especially on the third lyrical part and the melancholic drone-like ambiance of the sixth part where the quartet demonstrates reserved elegance and beautiful and poetic articulation by all four musicians, and quite often Berne and Carter are the ones who try to introduce melodic veins on other parts of this suite. More often however, the dynamics of the quartet simply ebb and flow intuitively by its own accord but with no center or a coherent roadmap. Still, it is fascinating to listen to how Perlman, Malaby, Berne and Carter play and expand any passing idea throughout the fast-shifting, free-associative and challenging session, but with such great potential, I would humbly ask for more.
Like Elvin Jones once remarked to an audience member who claimed not to like something to out and free...You shouldn't come to something new with expectations. You should come to it with open ears and a willingness to take it on it's terms...not yours.
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