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Monday, May 20, 2024

Matthew Shipp and Ivo Perelman – Magical Incantation (Soul City Sounds, 2024)

By Sammy Stein

What is it about the musical connection between Matthew Shipp and Ivo Perelman? Both are accomplished musicians, and both can hold attention on their own, but it is when they record together that the heart of each musician is revealed just a little more. It is conceivable that due to the number of recordings they have made together, the time may come when the music becomes predictable. However, that time feels a long way off. Because both are complex musicians with multiple influences and the ability to execute changes of style, tone, and atmosphere in a heartbeat, the possibilities are endless – and while they may have explored a small section of their musical potential, Magical Incantations, out on Soul City Sounds on 3 rd May 2024, demonstrates they are not done yet. The duo finds more ways to interact, react, and interpret ideas. Their exploratory natures mean they bounce ideas off each other – some work, some not so much – but the intention to push the boundaries of piano and tenor saxophone and the way they combine and converse, means they find new roads to travel musically and seem to relish the different approaches.

Watching the evolution of a musician is interesting and because Perelman records so prolifically with a range of different musicians, his journey is ongoing. Like Shipp, he has many influences and both musicians have a history steeped in musical education and experiences. On ‘Prayer’ for example, Perelman delivers a warm, melodic, introspective rumination and remains in the lower register, proving his respected altissimo is not the only register he can communicate in with profound effect. Shipp, meanwhile, intuitively contrasts with gentle counterpointed melodies on the piano.

The music on this recording ranges from fast, gentle but furious anecdotes swapped and batted back and forth – such as on ‘Rituals,’ where Shipp lays down tricky rhythms while Perelman shifts from altissimo to lower register and back in full flow – to gorgeous, rounded sections such as those from both players on ‘Lustihood’. Musical intuition abounds on tracks including the stand-out ‘Enlightenment’ where Shipp delivers a wealth of ideas that Perelman takes, shapes, and throws across the top for Shipp to capture and reflect. The concluding section of this number is beautiful.

On ‘Sacred Values’ there is an atmosphere of mystery and awe with both players introducing a sense of respect and almost tentative entry at times. The deep rolling piano provides the perfect backdrop for Perelman’s delivery at times, while at others, Shipp withdraws, leaving Perelman floating exposed across the top. The rising section is magnificent from both players as Shipp connects with what Perelman is doing and the texture and volume swells.

‘Incarnation’ is jumpy, forceful, and packed with energy, while ‘Vibrational Essence’ is as fugal as a two-part piece can be, with Shipp delivering classical-influenced lines transcending the keys in equal intervals and eloquent changes before Perelman enters.

Magical Incantation is atmospheric, thoughtful, and subtly powered by Shipp as he introduces changes of key and emphasis, to which Perelman reacts in Perelman fashion with a series of switches, ascensions, and descents of the keys. His musical reflexes are on point.

Perelman and Shipp have delivered another piece of their continuing musical dialogue – as beautiful and profound as much of their work before. Their multiple influences can be heard, from blues and classical music to freeform and complete improvisation and their ability to tell stories with music is a delight. One issues an invitation by pressing on with a distinct rhythm or pattern and the other either accepts the invitation and backs the other or invites the other to follow them as they diverge from the original concept – or maybe they come back to it. There is structure to the pieces however and they are not simply improvised meanderings that have no beginning, middle, and end. It is this structure that reflects the hardened learning of both musicians and displays their understanding of how music needs to make sense, to prevent it becoming simply noise. Shipp and Perelman prove music is a continuous journey and here, it feels as if two outstanding improvisers who understand each other have found the perfect partner to travel some of that journey with.