Before We Say Goodbye To 2012
In consumer culture, where we are all guilty of looking for the next new thing, the emphasis is always on new releases, and what the next, best, super-improved product will be. It seems that even before this week's movie opens, we are being told about next week's blockbuster.
Before we turn our attention fully to 2013, here are some 2012 releases that deserve a listen.
The Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1
When something is as graceful as an athletic touchdown catch or as beautiful as a landscape, it is quite easy to keep returning to it. Even the untrained can appreciate pure beauty. Such is the case when musician Sam Newsome plies his art, the solo saxophone.
In his case, the soprano saxophone, perhaps the most difficult to master. One can probably count the significant living soprano players on one hand. That maybe why each solo release by Newsome is such a treat. The Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1 follows two other self-released albums, Monk Abstractions (2007) and Blue Soliloquy (2009). Here he guides us through recognized territory, John Coltrane's A Love Supreme from 1965 and a medley of Duke Ellington tunes, plus his own "Soprano de Africana" suite.
Playing solo, this one man band uses occasional overdubbing to simulate the percussive parts of his Africana suite. He pairs his cluck and slap tongue approach with flowing notes to multiply his sound, otherwise he maintains the narrative himself. Newsome's take on Coltrane's masterpiece is both reverent and ultimately fresh. Playing notes into the strings of an open piano, he is able to achieve overtones and echoes that elevate the harmonics without studio effects. With an arsenal of sound, this recording never seems to lag.
In many sci-fi B-movie plots there always seems to be a some type of science experiment that goes horribly wrong. This, of course creates a monster that has to be dealt with. In music, leviathans are not built in a laboratory, but in music practice rooms. They still require that we 'deal' with them. Consider tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman. The Brazilian-born painter and musician with a Godzilla of a sound, he can be heard on five (count them) stellar releases in 2012. Each disc begins with his quartet of pianist Matthew Shipp, guitar/bassist Joe Morris, and drummer Gerald Cleaver, first heard on the disc The Hour Of The Star (Leo Records, 2011). Perelman then slices and reconfigures the quartets molecules to come up with new strange and beautiful creatures.
Ivo Perelman/ Joe Morris/ Gerald Cleaver
Living Jelly excuses Shipp and plays in trio formation with Joe Morris wielding his electric guitar over bass. Like each new disc, every track is spontaneously composed. Without a bassist, this session opens up, free of a strict timekeeper's watch. Nimble is the tone on "Playing With Mercury," Perelman squeezing out upper register blurts against the nimble fireworks of Morris and Cleaver's stick work. Where a lesser band might get repetitive with such freedom, this trio seems to prefer a coherent message. The bluesy slur of "The Sloth" compliment the almost-bebop of "In Pursuit Of Pleasure."
Ivo Perelman/ Matthew Shipp/ Whit Dickey
The saxophonist reunites with Shipp and adds drummer Whit Dickey, (both having worked with the late saxophonist David S. Ware) on The Clairvoyant. Again, sans bass, the role is often filled by Dickey's drum kit. What weaves throughout this disc is a sense of exploration. The trio is constantly marking each other's notions, reacting and anticipating some move or direction. They come off with a fumbling blues touch on "Ritual" with Perelman opening up with his jelly smeared Albert Ayler-sound. Shipp, dances around blues here and then stakes his claim by returning fire on "Torture And Glory." Besides holding down the beat, Dickey is a fine colorist. Where Shipp and Perelman are instigators, the drummer is content to support.
Ivo Perelman/ Matthew Shipp/ Michael Bisio
The Gift swaps Shipp's trio partner Dickey for bassist Michael Bisio.
Without a drummer the trio delivers eight shortish improvisations and two lengthier tracks with the longest, (clocking in at 13:06) "A Flower Bewitched And Too Bright By Far," and the most introspective. The three complete each task with a reasoned articulation that might be the hallmark of Perelman's sound. The title track begins with a very Carl Stallings cartoon-like walk from Shipp. He seems to be goading the saxophonist towards a bit of mayhem. The saxophonist works the upper registers dancing over the runs. Elsewhere the trio makes some lounge-like jazz sounds on "What Is this Anguish?," playing within the form and the formalities of the perceived jazz tradition.
Eric Boeren Quartet