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Ivo Perelman: The Eye Listens

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Saxophonist and sometime cellist Ivo Perelman was one of the most promising players of free jazz in the early 1990s. A prolific series of recordings disseminated on a clutch of labels including Homestead, Leo, CIMP, Music & Arts and others pointed firmly to his rising primacy in the music. Strangely, just as his star was reaching an early zenith he dropped off the view screen and out of the public sphere. Several years of lamentable silence ensued. Thankfully this disc marks his auspicious return and his unexplained absence is easily absolved by the explosive and cathartic music on hand. Regardless the reason for his protracted departure it’s simply good to have him back.

Joining Perelman in his homecoming to the recording studio are two improvisers who match his intensity and drive pound for pound. Wilbur Morris is a veteran of countless sessions and has worked closely with many of finest artisans of creative improvised music including Denis Charles, David Murray and innumerable others. Michael Wimberly is perhaps best known for his work with Charles Gayle (a saxophonist who parallels Perelman in terms of seemingly inexhaustable stamina and fervor) in the early 90s coming into his own around the time that Perelman was first making a big splash on the scene. Together these two rhythmic dynamos fit beautifully around Perelman’s ecstatic horn and set about from the start helping the saxophonist recoup ground lost by his hiatus. Rarely does Perelman rely on the traditional timbre and tone of the tenor. He is far more apt to squeeze and twist his sound into a menagerie of contorted screams, shouts and suspirations. In his lungs’ grasp the saxophone truly becomes a conduit for transcendental communication.

The five tracks are all lengthy in duration and long on galvanic ideas. “A Night at the Opera,” which maps out over nearly a third of an hour waxes and wanes on an elastic, but adamantine framework of rhythms fabricated by Morris and Wimberly. Perelman revels in the freedom provided by his colleagues blowing by turns fretful and lyrical as unnamed spirits flow frenetically through his embouchure. On the surface this is full bore free jazz ripe with emotive urgency and energy, but as later sections reveal there is far more going on than simple cathartic release. Morris’ touches down midway through the piece with a solo statement that has almost a calming effect as each carefully measured pattern of notes from his strings creates a bold contrast to Perelman’s early histrionics. The saxophonist’s reentry is noticeably colored by Morris’ paregoric still dealing in fiery split tones but devoid of the gushing forward tide favored earlier. Wimberly’s toms on the title track are similarly subdued, but still lick flames on a combustible rhythmic tinder that threatens to flare up. Perelman’s acrobatic leaps between and beyond the routine registers of his horn create a startling dynamic range. Plummeting from high pitched wails to stout bottom-end swells often within the same harried line the effect is unnerving in its blatant virtuosity. Melodic swatches litter “The Solution” like a varicolored quilt patchworks as Perelman renews his prestidigitations. Morris’ arco solo that dissolves into spidery plucked cascades is equally astounding.

Mewling vocalizations siphoned through reed or borne out nakedly into the air preface “Give Them the Spiritual.” Morris’s barbed bow slices out a harmonic counterpoint surrounded by Wimberly’s sparse sticking. Later the velocity ebbs and flows into a roiling torrent of overtones before softening into a lyrical caress on the raspy tails of Perelman’s horn. Perelman is a player with something to say and this disc denotes definitively that his pulpit is once again in session.

Track Listing: A Night At the Opera/ The Eye Listens/ The Solution/ Give Them the Spiritual/ Dance of the Infidels.

Personnel: Ivo Perelman- tenor saxophone, vocals; Wilber Morris- bass, vocals; Michael Wimberly- drums. Recorded: August 19, 1999, Hillside Studio, NJ.

Record Label: Boxholder Records

Style: Modern Jazz


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