Archeologists and cultural anthropologists theorize early humans had some form of music appreciation. They listened to the sounds wind made as it passed through trees. The breeze sounded different passing through oak than it did fir trees, and the sound was altered whether it was spring or fall. Then there were the bird songs, the first Lennon & McCartneys of the stone age. Early man replicated these melodies, with bones that could be whittled into horns or used to recreate the pounding sounds of thunder. Weapons of war, like bows, were turned into harps and a many millennium later, we got Chuck Berry. Before we had major and minor scales and Mr. Berry sang "Roll Over Beethoven," there was well, free improvisation. It was a pure expression, sans rules.
Fast forward to the 21st century and the Brazilian-born New York resident Ivo Perelman
's ouevre, an attestation of that pure expression. It's not that he started here. Perelman, early on, played guitar before he picked up a saxophone, and before his formal studies at the Berklee College of Music. Brazilian folk informed his early recordings. Then, inspired by Albert Ayler
and late period John Coltrane
, he took up the fire music of the 1960s. Like those two giants of free music, Perelman has stripped away the formal rules of music, jazz in general, and particularly free jazz. His music is pure sound. He draws from nature, birds, trees, plants, ocean creatures, and insects. Everything old is new again.
Recording in a duo setting with a pianist is to be expected with Perelman. If you think Perelman, the next thought is typically Matthew Shipp
. Over more than two decades, the two have produced nearly fifty discs together, the majority as a duo. They are the proverbial brothers from different mothers. What happens then, when Perelman steps outside his circle to perform with different musicians? Lately he has done this with the likes of trumpeter Nate Wooley
, bass clarinetist Jason Stein
, oud musician Gordon Grdina
, and rumor has it, upcoming recordings with David Murray, Roscoe Mitchell
, Joe Lovano
, and Tim Berne
This nine CD boxset (and digital download) finds Perelman with nine different pianists. He is performing with eight for the first time. Although Marilyn Crispell
was a member of the saxophonist quartet in the mid-1990s, this is an entire new landscape. What we know about a 21st century Perelman studio date is there are no written scores and nothing is discussed before the tape begins rolling. This exploration with Crispell and the remaining eight: Dave Burrell
, Sylvie Courvoisier
, Agusti Fernandez
, Vijay Iyer
, Aruán Ortiz
, Aaron Parks
, Angelica Sanchez
, and Craig Taborn
are a banquet of improvised sound.
Each pianist brings different flavors to the table and either responds to Perelman's horn or pushes him in new directions. For instance Crispell brings out a melodic lyrical side of the saxophonist with "Chapter One" of their nine track disc. But like her work in Anthony Braxton
's quartet, she is also a toe-to- -toe slugger, matching energy, be it upper or lower register. Same for Fernández, who moves from the quietude of his opening solo into bouts of riotous cacophony. Perelman is more than willing to follow or lead. It is not really clear who lights the powder keg here. Happy inside his piano or out, Fernández and and Taborn might be closest comparisons to brother Matthew Shipp. Taborn is a percussive and emotional pianist whot can range from moody to mania. Perelman matches emotion, scaling upper registers and the depths of his horn. Aaron Park's approach comes to this date more from a conventional sound. Those new to Perelman's approach might best start here as there are markers and points of reference that are palatable to the uninitiated. Sylvie Courvoisier's date contains eleven tracks and might be best described as improvised chamber music. She gets Perelman to quiet the thousand and one ideas he routinely attempts to express and focus on just a few thoughts.
But wait, there's more. Angelica Sanchez and Perelman give us nine tracks that you might easily mistake for composed music. The pair join without contradiction, and the uncanny flow is a their improvised gift to listeners. Aruán Ortiz adopts a complementary style throughout the disc; pulsing tones and ringing notes act as a foundation for the saxophonist's flights. Perelman's travels through the different registers of his horn are a language few musicians speak as their primary language. His music is performed without a net, which makes him a perfect partner for both Vijay Iyer and Dave Burrell. The two pianists represent different generations of sonic explorers. Iyer's wanderlust at the keyboards is a perfect complement to Perelman's desire to push boundaries. If ideas were a traded commodity, this disc would be priceless. Although the box set opens with Dave Burrell, it is fitting to make him our last stop. Burrell wrote avant-garde history with the likes of Pharoah Sanders
, Marion Brown
, Archie Shepp
, and David Murray
. In the company of such jazz royalty, Perelman's approach to the two lengthy tracks is a respectful deference to Burrell's Thelonious Monk
-like and Duke Ellington
-esque dancing notes. The often cautious approach here by both musicians, where rhythm and song come together, might be the highlight of this box.
CD1: Tale One with Dave Burrell: Chapter One; Chapter Two; CD2: Tale Two with Marilyn
Crispell: Chapter One; Chapter Two; Chapter Three; Chapter Four; Chapter Five; Chapter Six;
Chapter Seven; Chapter Eight; Chapter Nine; CD3: Tale Three with Aruán Ortiz: Chapter One;
Chapter Two; ; Chapter Three; Chapter Four; Chapter Five; Chapter Six; Chapter Seven; CD4:
Tale Four – Ivo Perelman with Aaron Parks: Chapter One; Chapter Two; Chapter Three; CD5
Tale Five – Ivo Perelman with Sylvie Courvoisier CD9 Tale Nine – Ivo Perelman with Vijay Iyer;
Chapter Six; Chapter Seven; Chapter Eight; Chapter Nine; Chapter Ten; Chapter Eleven; CD6
Tale Six – Ivo Perelman with Agustí Fernández: Chapter One; Chapter Two; Chapter Three;
Chapter Four; Chapter Five; Chapter Six; Chapter Seven; Chapter Eight; Chapter Nine; CD7
Tale Seven – Ivo Perelman with Craig Taborn: Chapter One; Chapter Two; ; Chapter Three;
Chapter Four; Chapter Five; CD8 Tale Eight – Ivo Perelman with Angelica Sanchez: Chapter
One; Chapter Two; Chapter Three; Chapter Four; Chapter Five; Chapter Six; Chapter Seven;
Chapter Eight; Chapter Nine; CD9 Tale Nine – Ivo Perelman with Vijay Iyer: Chapter One;
Chapter Two; Chapter Three; Chapter Four; Chapter Five.
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