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Ivo Perelman, Chad Fowler, Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille: Embracing the Unknown


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Ivo Perelman, Chad Fowler, Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille: Embracing the Unknown
Since founding Mahakala Music in 2019, saxophonist Chad Fowler has done as much as anyone to continue the spirit of unfettered free jazz, drawing on an illustrious roster which includes veterans such as William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Joe McPhee, Ivo Perelman and many others, with Fowler himself frequently appearing alongside them. The label is also doing a superb job of bringing together cross-generational assemblages of musicians, as on 2022's Alien Skin, which brought Shipp, Parker and Perelman together with Fowler, drummer Steve Hirsh and young sax phenom Zoh Amba. While there are no up-and-coming stars on Embracing the Unknown, this stimulating release does include the contributions of a couple of undisputable free-jazz legends, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Andrew Cyrille, and with the saxophone tandem of Perelman and Fowler completing the quartet, what results is a master class in free improvisation.

Perelman has many standout traits, but surely one of the foremost is his ability to merge seamlessly with his partners, crafting a common sound from disparate parts. His sympathetic exchanges with Fowler are the focal point of the record, as the two often merge their lines so closely that differentiating them becomes difficult, and beside the point anyway, since they are so finely attuned to each other. (Even though Fowler plays the stritch and saxello here, their timbral differences with Perelman's tenor sax are largely inconsequential.) Sometimes their dialogues take the form of a casual conversation, while at other moments they have an almost dance-like quality; only rarely do they depart to travel in competing directions. One of the strengths of the recording is that there is plenty of space for reflection and circumspection; the musicians' confidence allows them to develop their ideas patiently and deliberately, and the album's generous hour-plus runtime is well-served in that regard.

Although these saxophonists can bring the heat, they choose not to do so here. The expansive, 21-minute title track does contain an electrical charge whenever Perelman hits the upper register and Fowler's emphatic responses goad him on; and there are occasional moments of fire on other tracks as well. But the album's usual temperament is much more restrained. There are gorgeous moments on "Self-reflection," with a melodic line initially reminiscent of Hoagy Carmichael's "Nearness of You," as Perelman and Fowler trace out a dusky reverie that at times seems pre-planned in its sympathetic convergences. "Self-analysis" moves in a contemplative direction as well, as Perelman's upper-register explorations dovetail with Fowler's plaintive cries, and Workman's brooding arco finds its way expertly into the conversation.

The Workman-Cyrille axis is a crucial aspect of the album's success, as the pair have an intuitive grasp of the saxophonists' approach and they adroitly provide just what is needed on each track. Workman's lyricism is an essential part of the conversation on "Self-fulfillment," while Cyrille speaks volumes with his careful cymbal work, and the two gradually fuel the intensity as it builds, but without ever losing sight of the central direction of the dialogue. "Introspection" verges into free-bop territory, with Cyrille at his most animated and Workman providing flowing lines to maintain the energy as Perelman and Fowler intertwine their most soulful utterances. And the quartet is not beyond finding its playful side either, as the album's closer, "Self-contemplation," gets a calypso-esque jauntiness from Workman's and Cyrille's well-placed percussion. It brings a smile to one's face, especially after experiencing the many fine moments of collective music-making on this excellent release.

Track Listing

Embracing the Unknown; Soul Searching; Self-Reflection; Introspection; Self-Analysis; Self- Fulfillment; Self-Contemplation.


Ivo Perelman
saxophone, tenor
Chad Fowler
Additional Instrumentation

Chad Fowler: stritch, saxello; Reggie Workman: percussion.

Album information

Title: Embracing the Unknown | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Mahakala Music



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